Pakistani authorities are preparing to execute a man who was a juvenile at the time of his arrest, in the early hours of Tuesday morning (local time).
Ansar Iqbal was arrested in 1994 on murder charges – which he denies – and sentenced to death in 1996, despite telling the court he was 15 at the time of his arrest. All the documentary evidence provided to the courts during his trial or appeal indicates that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence; however, the courts have chosen to believe the estimate of police officers that he was in his 20s.
His scheduled hanging follows a recent Supreme Court hearing in which judges refused to consider a birth certificate issued by the country’s official National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). The certificate gives his date of birth as 25 December 1978 – confirming Iqbal’s account that he was a 15 at the time of the alleged offence in June 1994.
The execution of people who were children at the time of the alleged offence has long been banned under both international and Pakistani law. However, since resuming executions in December 2014, the country has seen at least three people executed who were children at the time of the alleged offence, alongside hundreds of others. The executions took place despite Pakistan’s commitments to human rights standards set out in trade agreements with the European Union, with which Pakistan enjoys preferential status.
Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood visited Pakistan for talks last week, and said in a statement that he “highlight[ed] the steps [Pakistan] still needs to take in protecting human rights.” Human rights organization Reprieve has today written to the minister asking if he raised the issue of executions, including that of Iqbal, during his trip.
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Ansar Iqbal is scheduled to be hanged in Pakistan in less than 12 hours, despite the fact that the government’s own records show that he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The execution of juveniles are prohibited under Pakistani and international law, yet there have already been three juveniles executed in Pakistan this year alone. Given that over 70% of births are unregistered in Pakistan, the Pakistani authorities should be doing all they can to ensure that they are not inadvertently sending children to the gallows. All the documentary evidence shows that Ansar was a child when he was arrested - his execution tomorrow morning would be a grave travesty of justice and must be stopped.”
Source: Reprieve, Sept. 28, 2015
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