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

April 25, 2016

Image of 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.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Basit’s comments can be seen here.

3. The comments of the Pakistani Supreme Court and the UN Special Rapporteur are available on request.

4. Details of the Reprieve/JPP investigation into executed prisoners in Pakistan were reported by Reuters, here.