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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Pakistan executed juvenile in May, court documents show

This year has already seen Pakistan execute at least two people sentenced to death as children, documents obtained by international human rights organisation Reprieve show.

Faisal Mehmood was executed on 27 May, 2015, even though the prosecutor in his initial trial had argued he should not face the death penalty as he was under 18 at the time of the alleged crime.

The revelation comes on top of the execution of Aftab Bahadur on 10 June, who was convicted aged 15, and ahead of the planned hanging of Shafqat Hussain next week, who was also sentenced to death while under 18.

Faisal Mehmood was initially convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in 2000. However, Pakistan’s Supreme Court increased this to a capital sentence on appeal – despite evidence he was under eighteen at the time of the alleged offence.

The Supreme Court judgement even records that the Deputy Prosecutor General in the case was “pleased that the sentence of imprisonment for life…was the only punishment which could be awarded to him because the said convict was a minor at the time of occurrence.” Pakistan law prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for those who are under 18 at the time of the offence.

As well as the evidence of the prosecutor, Reprieve has also obtained copies of Faisal’s birth certificate and school record, both of which record his date of birth as 1 February, 1981. The crime Faisal was accused of took place on 26 January 1999, meaning he would have been 17 years old at the time.

Faisal’s case may raise questions for the Pakistani authorities over their decision to execute Shafqat Hussain this Tuesday (4 August). Shafqat was also under 18 at the time of the alleged offence for which he received a death sentence, but the authorities have consistently refused to carry out a judicial inquiry into his age – instead seizing and withholding documents such as his school record, which could hold crucial evidence.

Last week (22 July), a statutory human rights watchdog in Sindh called for Shafqat’s execution to be halted, in order for his torture and age to be properly investigated. In a report on his case, the Sindh Human Rights Commission argued that the trial court “should have taken up” the issue of Shafqat’s juvenility at the time of sentencing, and criticised the inquiry into his age carried out by the Government’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as “not admissible.” Citing the failure to investigate the allegations of torture, the Commission concluded that “we fail to understand why [there was] such a careless handling of a serious case where [the] life of a human being is at stake.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said:

“Tragically, this year has already seen Pakistan hang at least two people who were arrested as children. This surely must cause the Government to think again about next week’s planned hanging of Shafqat Hussain - who was under 18 when he was sentenced to death. Human rights groups - from the UN to the Sindh Human Rights Commission – have called for this hanging to be halted over concerns about his age and the torture he suffered. There needs to be an immediate stay of executions and a full inquiry to ensure that the execution of juveniles can never take place again.”

Source: Reprieve, July 31, 2015

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