Justice Project Pakistan held a screening on Tuesday to show Pakistan's 1st ever review under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the UN's Human Rights Committee in Geneva.
During the review, screened by the JPP at SAFMA centre, the severity and use of the Pakistan's death penalty was widely questioned.
Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the committee, asked whether the moratorium would be re-established. He added that Pakistan must abide by the penalty minimally and with prudence.
"Although Pakistan justifies its use of the death penalty because of the APS attack in Peshawar, the death penalty is applicable to those committing other 27 death-eligible crimes, many of which are not fatal. All Muslim countries are dealing with terrorism and Pakistan is not an exception. Nevertheless, it must abide by minimum standards."
The committee also stated that only a small fraction of executions carried out were over terrorism charges. "Pakistan has the right to defend itself against terrorism, but [it] need[s] to apply the death penalty with prudence," Achour stated.
While Pakistan's Human Rights Minister Kamran Michael stated that there is some flexibility in the interpretation of the "most serious crimes," the committee reiterated that Pakistan has "gone over the limit" by issuing death sentences to those convicted of drug trafficking, having sexual relationships outside of marriage, or blasphemy.
It demanded Pakistan to limit its application of the death penalty by ensuring that it remains fully exceptional, is reserved for only the most serious crimes, and is not used to execute minors under the age of 18.
Pakistan has stated that "the death penalty is imposed after due process and in the case of most serious crimes only." It was also clarified that the death penalty would not be applicable on an individual who was below 18 years of age.
The UN committee called for better implementation of the penalty in Pakistan. It stated that there was a need for judges to be effectively trained and violence by state authorities to be prevented, preferably outlawed.
The committee also questioned why the National Commission on Human Rights chairman was not allowed to attend the review, and why the body had been put under the protection of the Ministry of Human Rights.
The lack of a consular protection policy for Pakistanis on death row abroad was also highlighted by the committee - a cause taken up by the Lahore High Court - which expressed serious concern about the high number of Pakistanis executed by Saudi Arabia.
JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal urged the government to reform and engage with the civil society which could help them answer impending questions pertaining to the issue at hand.
"The road ahead is long and there is much to be done. We look forward to the Pakistan's detailed response tomorrow," said Belal, referring to day 2 of the committee's meeting being held today.
Rights activists, along with members of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Family Planning Association of Pakistan and Human Rights Watch attended the session.
In 2010, Pakistan ratified the ICCPR, a multilateral treaty that commits its parties to uphold and respect the right to life for all its citizens.
Following the Peshawar APS attack in December 2014, Pakistan had reverted to being an executing state and had extensively made use of the death penalty, which had been taken up in the issues framed by the Human Rights Council committee.
Source: geo.tv, July 11, 2017
Pakistan: Crime and death
Capital punishment is often cited as a means to deter crime and effectively maintain law and order. A new report by the Justice Project Pakistan finds the opposite may be true. In the first place, the report notes there is little correlation between executions and a drop in the death rate. While last year Punjab carried out 83 % of executions in the country, it saw only a 9.7 % drop in the murder rate from 2015 to 2016. Sindh experienced a drop of nearly 25 % over the same period, even though it only carried out 18 executions in contrast to 382 in the Punjab. Since it lifted the moratorium on death penalties in December 2014, Pakistan has hanged a total of 465 prisoners - or 3.5 a week. This makes it 5th on the list of nations which carry out the largest number of executions, following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. The moratorium was also lifted in response to the attack at APS Peshawar in 2014 in which hundreds of children died. However, in 2015, anti-terrorism courts accounted for only 16 % of executions. The number continued to fall further in 2016 and 2017. Most of those hanged have been taken to the gallows as a result of orders from district and sessions courts which do not deal with terrorism cases.
There are other worrying trends. The mentally ill, juvenile offenders, the physically disabled, and others have been among those against whom death warrants were issued. And some have been hanged for no reason at all. In October last year, 2 brothers who had spent 11 years on death row and then been executed in 2015 were acquitted by the Supreme Court. It was naturally too late to inform them of this verdict. Other similar cases are not unheard of. There are also disturbing indications that executions are sometimes awarded simply to make room for other prisoners in overcrowded jails. Executions, it must be noted, are not a game. It has been obvious for a very long time that Pakistan needs to focus on reform rather than retribution. Much wider public debate on the issue is needed within the country, all the more so given the inadequacies of our justice system. There is no indication that the death penalty reduces militancy or crime. It should not then be upheld as a means to tackle the growth in such trends.
Source: The International News, Editorial, July 11, 2017
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