Death-row Pakistani has no right to challenge execution, say officials

April 20, 2015

A Pakistani investigation into the case of death-row prisoner Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death as a juvenile, has reportedly concluded that he should now be executed.

Shafqat Hussain was arrested in 2004 as a juvenile and sentenced to death on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted through torture. Early reports suggest that the controversial investigation into the case by the Federal Investigations Authority (FIA) has said that Mr Hussain’s legal team should not have been allowed to raise the issue of his juvenility after his appeals concluded.

The publication of the government-ordered probe’s conclusions follows the raising of concerns about its neutrality. Last week, the Islamabad High Court ordered government officials to appear in court in two weeks’ time to answer questions about their approach, including their cancellation of Mr Hussain’s birth certificate – his only form of government-issued registration, and an important piece of evidence.

Police torture and forced confessions are “systematic” in parts of Pakistan, according to a 2014 report by Yale Law School and Justice Project Pakistan (JPP). Global Demographic and Health Surveys regularly report levels of age registration in Pakistan to be as low as 34 per cent.

Sarah Belal, director of Justice Project Pakistan, said:

“The government’s investigators have utterly failed to carry out the promised independent, transparent inquiry – instead they stripped my client of his only government-issued registration document, and confiscated other important evidence. The fact remains that Shafqat, and many others awaiting execution, may have been wrongfully arrested and forced into confessions as a juvenile. In its rush to execute them, the government is in danger of committing a terrible breach of Pakistani and international law.”

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“It is unthinkable that the Pakistani authorities should try to deny prisoners like Shafqat the right to raise issues of torture and juvenility – which are of fundamental importance in any case, but especially a capital case – at this critical stage in the proceedings. That people could be sent to the gallows and denied a chance to properly defend themselves because of a matter of procedure is an egregious affront to justice. The Pakistani government should change course immediately, before more lives are wantonly lost.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s UK press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8160