"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Monday, June 1, 2015

Execution date set for Pakistani juvenile despite Government’s inconsistent claims over age, document cover-up

Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain
An execution date has been set for a Pakistani convicted as a juvenile, following nine days of police torture, despite a new investigation by human rights charity Reprieve revealing that the Government has covered up a wide range of key evidence relating to his age.

The execution warrant – a so-called ‘black warrant’ – was issued to lawyers for Shafqat Hussain this morning and set a date of June 9th.

This is despite a significant number of inconsistencies and errors in Government statements regarding the case, which have yet to be resolved – including an admission by the Interior Minister himself that the jail’s doctor and jail authorities contradicted one another on Shafqat’s age.

Shafqat’s case came to prominence after evidence emerged showing he was sentenced to death when he was under 18, and that he was tortured into ‘confessing’ to carrying out a kidnap – both of which are in violation of both Pakistani and international law. The Pakistani Government has contested this strongly in the media, accusing those raising Shafqat’s mistreatment as seeking to “undermine” the country’s justice system and even threatening them with criminal proceedings.[i]

The only inquiry undertaken into Shafqat’s age has been by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) – an organisation which the Interior Minister said earlier this month requires a “clean-up operation…to weed out corrupt elements.”[ii]

Among the irregularities uncovered by Reprieve are:

The Pakistani Government has taken control of a number of key pieces of evidence, which it has since refused to either publish or share with Shafqat’s legal team, including:

  • Shafqat’s school record: this is believed to contain evidence supporting his being a juvenile at the time of the alleged offence. It was taken from the school by FIA investigators who have since refused to publish or release it.
  • Statements by a number of people interviewed by the FIA inquiry, all of which have been withheld despite being referenced in the FIA report.

The inquiry into Shafqat’s age by Pakistan’s FIA has led to a number of concerns or criticisms, including:

  • A statement by a Pakistani High Court judge that the inquiry was “prima facie illegal.”[iii]
  • Questions over the FIA’s suitability to carry out an independent inquiry, not least due to statements by the responsible minister, Chaudhry Nisar, that it needs a “clean up” due to corruption.
  • In an attempt to undermine claims of Shafqat’s juvenility, the FIA reported that there were first 10,887 and then 10,867 defendants tried as juveniles between 2004-2015 in Karachi. They added that there were “1,455 convicts treated as juveniles in Karachi” in 2004 (the year that Shafqat was convicted). These figures are contradicted by the Society for Protection of Children Rights in Pakistan, who cite figures from the Inspectorate General of Prisons Pakistan as showing they tried and convicted only 4,772 juvenile defendants in the entirety of Sindh Province from 2003-2013, and just 677 in 2004.[iv]
  • The emergence of two very different FIA investigation documents, one provided to Shafqat’s legal team and the other to the media, both of which state at the outset that “the objective of the enquiry is not to determine the age of Shafqat Hussain” – directly contradicting Chaudhry Nisar’s claim that “The Inquiry that I have conducted was to verify [the] claim of age.”[v]
  • A reliance on an “ocular analysis” of low-quality photos, purportedly of Shafqat, in order to determine his age – despite admitting that this is “not a scientific analysis.”

Pakistan’s Minister for the Interior, Chaudhry Nisar, has made a number of statements which undermine his Government’s version of events, including:

  • An admission that the jail’s own doctor and the jail authorities had each recorded different ages for Shafqat.[vi]
  • A claim that a DNA test could be used at present to settle Shafqat’s age at the time of the offence (this is not possible).[vii]

No attempt has been made by the Pakistani Government to investigate Shafqat’s credible allegations that he was tortured into ‘confessing’ to the crime for which he received a death sentence.

Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty at Reprieve said: “The Pakistan Government’s behaviour in this case has been nothing short of scandalous. They have covered up evidence which may show that Shafqat was a child when he was sentenced to death and produced hopelessly contradictory versions of events. Sentencing children to death violates both Pakistani and international law – you would therefore expect the Government to take steps to ensure it never happens. Instead, we have seen a phoney inquiry carried out by a hopelessly corrupt agency, which the authorities themselves admit was more a PR exercise than an attempt to get to the truth. If the Pakistani Government is serious about its commitment to justice, it would do well to look to its own failings and finally conduct a proper inquiry into whether it is about to execute someone convicted as a child after days of being tortured by police.”

[i] According to news reports, “The FIA in its inquiry report had also found this campaign as an effort to target the criminal justice system of Pakistan and thus had recommended to the Interior Ministry to initiate criminal proceedings against those who had masterminded and executed this campaign.” See ‘The News,’ 12 May 2015: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-317696-After-FIA-IHC-tears-apart-bogus-Save-Shafqat-campaign
[ii]  See Express Tribune, 11 May 2015: ‘The country’s top security czar has said that he wants to purge the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of corruption and for this purpose a committee comprising senior officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been formed. “I will start a cleanup operation in the FIA to weed out corrupt elements,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a news briefing on Sunday.’
[iv] The Society for Protection of Children Rights, Juvenile Population in Pakistani Prisons 2003-2013. Available at: http://www.sparcpk.org/SOPC-2013/Juvenile%20Justice.pdf
[v] Under the heading “Objective of the enquiry” in a version of the FIA report provided by the Pakistani authorities to the media is that statement that, “The objective of the enquiry is not to determine the age of Shafqat Hussain.”  This directly contradicts Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar’s statement to Parliament, in which he said, referring to the Sindh Government’s points regarding Shafqat’s age, that “The Inquiry that I have conducted was to verify their claim of age.”  See ‘Interior Minister‘s statement on the floor of the House on the issue of Shafqat Hussain,’ Ministry of Interior website, 17/3/2015.  Copies of both documents are available from Reprieve.
[vi] In a statement to Parliament in March this year, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar said that jail records disagreed on Shafqat’s age – which undermines the FIA’s claim that all sources agreed: "At this time, what is on record is that when he went to jail, the jail doctor wrote his age as 25 years, and the jail authorities recorded it as being 23 years."
[vii] See Dawn, 18 March 2015: Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Tuesday said the Sindh government had turned down his proposal to conduct a DNA test of condemned prisoner Shafqat Hussain to determine his age.” http://www.dawn.com/news/1170238

Source: Reprieve, June 1, 2015

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