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Pakistan Supreme Court to consider case of juvenile facing hanging

Judges will tomorrow [Wednesday 8 June] consider the case of a prisoner who could be hanged at as little as three days’ notice, despite evidence that he was arrested as a child.

Muhammad Anwar was arrested when he was just 17 years old, and subsequently sentenced to death on murder charges. Although his birth certificate shows that he was a juvenile when arrested, he continues to be held under sentence of death, in violation of both Pakistani and international law.

An execution warrant was issued for Anwar on 12 December last year, but the process was stayed at the last minute by the courts to allow the issue of his juvenility to be considered. His lawyers will tomorrow ask the Supreme Court to ensure that Pakistan’s Government complies with its legal obligations and commutes his death sentence. The court had previously been due to consider his case last month, but the hearing was postponed.

Anwar was sentenced to death in 1998, five years after his arrest, and has now spent 23 years facing execution. In 2000, Pakistan introduced laws intended to bring it into line with international law banning the use of the death penalty against children. The country’s President subsequently decreed in 2001 that anyone facing the death penalty for offences committed when they were a child should have their sentence commuted to life.

Anwar’s family have since made a number of attempts to have his death sentence commuted, in line with Pakistani law, but no final decision has been taken by the authorities. They are now appealing to the Supreme Court in the hope that it will correct this historic mistake and ensure Anwar’s death sentence is commuted.

The nature of Pakistan’s death penalty system means that Anwar could face execution with as little as three days’ notice of receiving a ‘black warrant,’ which could be handed down at any time.

Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organization Reprieve said: “Anwar and his family have spent years trying to get someone to take a proper look at the evidence of his juvenility. The bottom line is that he simply should not be facing execution under either Pakistani or international law. However, he has been the victim of bureaucratic incompetence by the Pakistani Government, and as a result his case has fallen between the cracks. The Supreme Court now has the chance to correct this historic wrong and commute his sentence.”

Source: Reprieve, June 7, 2016

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