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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pakistan: official human rights body calls for stay in juvenile death penalty case

Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain
A statutory human rights watchdog in Sindh, Pakistan has called for a halt to the impending execution of Shafqat Hussain, in order for allegations of torture and his young age at the time of sentencing to be examined.

In an opinion published today, the Sindh Human Rights Commission, headed by a retired judge, notes that “there are no eye witnesses [to the alleged offence] but only [the] confession of the accused with [an] allegation of torture.”

The Commission criticises the lack of attention paid to the torture allegations during Shafqat’s trial, stating 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,” and asks whether Shafqat can “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking.”

The Commission also argues that the trial court “should have taken up” the issue of Shafqat’s juvenility at the time of sentencing, and criticises the inquiry into his age carried out by the Government’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as “not admissible.”

Shafqat was under 18 when he was sentenced to death – something which goes against both Pakistan and international law – yet the Pakistan Government has refused to back a judicial inquiry into his age, instead withholding a number of documents, notably his school record, which could provide proof.

In its conclusion, the Commission recommends that the Government of Sindh province pushes for the Pakistan Supreme Court to reopen Shafqat’s case in order “to consider the evidence which could not be produced at the trial…so that due justice may be done.” It adds that a stay of execution may be necessary until the court can consider the matter.

With the end of Ramadan, Pakistan’s Government is expected to restart executions which have so far taken an estimated 180 lives since the lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty last December.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “This comprehensive opinion highlights the many injustices which Shafqat has faced. Not only was he sentenced to death when underage, but he was subjected to torture in order to extract a false ‘confession.’ The Commission is right to call for a reopening of the case to ensure that justice is done – Pakistan’s Government must listen.”

Source: Reprieve, July 22, 2015

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