Execution of Pakistan torture victim suspended as government orders inquiry

January 5, 2015

Image of Shafqat Hussain

5 January 2015

The Pakistani government has suspended its plans to execute a man who was convicted at the age of 14 after being tortured into a ‘confession’ and wrongly tried in an anti-terrorism court.

In a speech earlier today, Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudry Nisar reportedly told the country’s Parliament that the government had “suspended capital punishment of Shafqat Hussain after his case reached interior ministry”, following requests by “civil society”. The Government had ordered a full inquiry into how a warrant for his execution was allowed, Mr Nisar said.

Earlier today, Mr Hussain’s family had been summoned to visit him in prison for the last time, after a so-called ‘Black Warrant’ was issued slating him for execution next Friday (14th). Justice Project Pakistan, the partner organisation of legal charity Reprieve, warned that today’s announcement must be followed by an official notification that Mr Hussain’s execution would not take place.

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, with 8,261 people currently awaiting execution. Executions have resumed in Pakistan in recent weeks, ending a six-year moratorium, as part of the government’s response to the mass school shooting that took place in December in Peshawar. The government has claimed it is executing only ‘terrorists’, but legal charity Reprieve and Justice Project Pakistan have found that the majority of those sentenced to death in the ATC, like Mr Hussain, were convicted on charges unrelated to terrorism.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“This news is hugely encouraging. Executing Shafqat, who was a child when he was tortured into a false ‘confession’ to a crime bearing no relation to terrorism, would do nothing to reduce the terror threat in the country, and would be a grave stain on Pakistan’s justice system. The inquiry into the errors made in this case is most welcome, but there are potentially thousands more like Shafqat. In the interests of justice, these hasty and symbolic executions should be halted and the moratorium on the death penalty restored.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For more information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve [DOT] org [DOT] uk / +44 7792 351 660

2. Background on Shafqat Hussain’s case can be found at the Reprieve website, here.