Child rights organisations express ‘deep concern’ over Pakistani death row juvenile
May 7, 2015
A group of prominent rights organisations have written to Pakistani interior minister Chaudhry Nisar expressing their ‘deep concern’ over the case of Pakistani Shafqat Hussain who was sentenced to death as a juvenile after days of police torture.
The letter, signed by organisations including Child Rights International Network and Penal Reform International, calls for Shafqat’s case to be stayed until a full judicial inquiry has been conducted which includes ‘not only an analysis of Mr Hussain’s juvenility, but rather a review of the case as a whole, in particular the allegations of torture.’
Shafqat was convicted of kidnap and murder and sentenced to death in 2004 following days of torture by police, including brutal beatings with sticks and fists, electrocution, and being burnt with cigarettes. Shafqat has always maintained his innocence, and was under 18 at the time. The execution of juveniles is illegal under both Pakistani and international law.
On Tuesday (5th) the Islamabad High Court temporarily stayed Shafqat’s case after declaring the government’s Federal Investigation Authority-led inquiry into his age ‘prima facie illegal’. The court gave the government until Friday to respond.
In order to suggest that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his conviction, the FIA inquiry relied almost exclusively on the trial record in making its assessment of Shafqat’s age. A recent Supreme Court judgment acknowledged the unreliability of such documents and warned: “Recording of an accused person’s age at the time of recording his statement under s.342 CrPC is invariably based upon a cursory visual assessment which can substantially be off the mark, as proverbially, appearances can be deceptive.”
The FIA also relied on school records confiscated from Shafqat’s village to undermine the testimony of his family members. However, a copy of these same school records obtained from media sources shows that they put Shafqat’s date of birth as 20.08.1986, which would make him 17 when he was convicted.
During their inquiry the government also did not allow Shafqat’s lawyers to be present when they interviewed him, or when they interviewed his parents, and other witnesses were reportedly subject to intimidation during interviews with the investigation team.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at Reprieve, said: “We are pleased that these organisations have added their voices to the cacophony of those shouting: Shafqat Hussain must not be executed. He was brutally tortured by the police and sentenced to death when just a child. At the very least Shafqat’s execution must be stayed until a proper, transparent inquiry has been conducted into all aspects of his case.”
1. For more information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s Press Office: clemency [DOT] wells [AT] reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk // + 44(0) 207 553 8161
2. The full letter is available online, here