"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, April 25, 2016

Death-row paraplegic in Pakistan pleads for mercy as stay of execution expires

Abdul Basit
Abdul Basit
A severely disabled prisoner on Pakistan’s death row has called on the country’s President to spare his life, as a stay of execution granted to him in January expired. 

Abdul Basit, who is paralyzed from the waist down, has had his execution halted at the last minute three separate times in the past year, after his lawyers raised concerns that his execution could be illegal. Pakistan's Supreme Court has said Basit’s execution must comply with the country's Prison Rules, which set Pakistan’s execution procedure - however, the rules contain no provisions for the hanging of prisoners in wheelchairs.

The Pakistani government has said it is carrying out an ‘inquiry’ into Basit’s medical condition, but has sought to block his lawyers from accessing the results of its tests on him. This weekend, the most recent stay of execution granted to Basit, in January this year, was due to expire. 

In comments to the Telegraph that were published today, Basit said that he still hoped that the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, would grant a petition for mercy submitted by his lawyers. He said: "The last two stays [of execution] have given me a hint of hope that Mr. President acknowledges that I am a helpless paralyzed man who cannot even stand on my feet. I don’t know what will happen when my stay expires. I don't know if they will hang me or let me live."

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Méndez, has said that Basit’s execution would be illegal under international law, and has called on Pakistan to permanently commute Basit’s death sentence in line with the petition for mercy submitted to the country’s President.

Pakistan is thought to have the largest death row in the world, at over 8,000 people. The government resumed executions in December 2014, and has claimed to be executing only ‘terrorists.’ However, an investigation this year by international human rights organization Reprieve and the Justice Project Pakistan found that, of 351 prisoners executed since 2014, only 1 in 10 involved people who could be linked to militancy. 

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “It’s deeply worrying that the Pakistani authorities may now be gearing up to try and execute Abdul Basit – a paralyzed man who once again faces the prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair. Following three previous last minute stays, the government has still given no explanation of how it plans to avoid a horribly botched execution. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has confirmed that Abdul Basit's death sentence is illegal and should be commuted. The international community must urgently call on Pakistan’s President to halt this cruel spectacle, and grant Basit’s plea for mercy.”
  • Basit's comments can be seen here
  • Details of the Reprieve/JPP investigation into executed prisoners in Pakistan were reported by Reuters, here.
Source: Reprieve, April 25, 2016


Pakistan jail 'withheld medical records' which could stop execution of paralysed man

A Pakistan jail which plans to hang a paralysed man on death row has been accused of withholding crucial medical documents which could be used to stop his execution, the Telegraph has learned.

Abdul Basit, who faces the grisly prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair, was granted a temporary stay of execution in November when the country's President ordered a full medical examination to determine whether he was too ill to face the gallows.

The reprieve was granted amid fears that Basit would be decapitated or suffer prolonged strangulation during his execution, as the prison has no guidelines on how to hang prisoners who are unable to mount the scaffold.

With his latest stay of execution set to expire on Monday, Basit's legal team have urgently appealed for access to an MRI scan confirming he has suffered irreversible damage to his spine, which they claim was caused by botched treatment for tubercular meningitis infection he contracted in prison in 2010.

The scans could prove that Basit's condition is so severe that he cannot be executed humanely and would offer him a chance of clemency, his lawyers say.

Prison officials refused to grant them access to the scans, prompting Basit's lawyers to file contempt of court proceedings against the superintendent of Faisalabad's Central Jail.

A Lahore judge on Thursday night ordered Faisalabad prison authorities to make the MRI scan available to Basit's lawyers, but dismissed the contempt claims.

"As his legal counsel we have a right to access medical records of our client," said Sarah Bilal, of Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit law firm.

"The judge directed them to give us the MRI scans. That's where the spine scan will show what damage has been done to his spine."

"If you can't pardon somebody who's been paralysed because of your jail's negligence, who is going to be eligible for a pardon?"

Faisalabad prison officials insist they have shared all available documents with Basit's counsel, but initially said they could not provide copies of the original MRI scans.

The Pakistani government has not confirmed whether it will extend Basit's reprieve, meaning a new death warrant could be issued by the Faisalabad district court as soon as next Monday.

Its plan to execute a paralysed prisoner has been condemned by the United Nations, which says the procedure is illegal and has demanded that Basit's death sentence is commuted.

Meanwhile, Basit said in a written message passed to the Telegraph by the legal charity Reprieve that he is living in fear and hopes the Pakistani president, Mamnoon Hussain, will show him mercy.

"Before the President halted my execution the 2nd time, I had no hope that I would live. But the last 2 stays have given me a hint of hope that Mr. President acknowledges that I am a helpless paralysed man who cannot even stand on my feet," he wrote.

"I don't know what will happen when my stay expires. I don't know if they will hang me or let me live."

Basit, a former administrator at a medical college, was convicted in May 2009 of the murder of the uncle of a woman with whom he was allegedly in a relationship.

He has always maintained his innocence.

Pakistan has seen a surge in executions since the country lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in response to the Peshawar massacre, in which hundreds of schoolchildren were gunned down by the Taliban.

Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve's death penalty team, told the Telegraph: "It's deeply worrying that the Pakistani authorities may now be gearing up to try and execute Abdul Basit - a paralysed man who once again faces the prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair.

"Following 4 previous last minute stays, the government has still given no explanation of how it plans to avoid a horribly botched execution.

"The international community must urgently call on Pakistan's President to halt this cruel spectacle, and grant Basit's plea for mercy on line with the Rapporteur's recommendations."

Source: The Telegraph, April 25, 2016

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