International lawyers urge Pakistan not to execute mentally ill prisoner
October 30, 2016
Over 60 lawyers from common-law countries around the world have urged Pakistan’s President to halt the execution of a severely mentally ill man next Wednesday (2nd November).
A series of medical assessments have confirmed that death row prisoner Imdad Ali is “insane,” and a government psychiatrist who has been treating him for eight years has confirmed that there is “no doubt…that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.”
Despite this, last week Pakistan’s ministry of the interior confirmed that the authorities plan to hang Mr Ali this Wednesday (2nd). Mr Ali’s lawyer at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), Sarah Belal, has said that Mr Ali is unable to understand that he faces execution.
In a letter sent to the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, 65 lawyers who are experts on capital cases from the USA, UK, India, Singapore, Nigeria, Botswana and Malawi wrote that:
“[We] note with some dismay the impending execution of Imdad Ali. If ever there were a case where mental illness was obvious to people ten thousand miles away, this is the one. Mr. Ali himself has a long history of paranoid schizophrenia, recognised by the prison staff, and everyone who has contact with him.”
Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants the President powers to “grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute” death sentences, and under international law, the President has a duty to review death penalty cases. In their letter, the lawyers urge the President to use his power to grant mercy to Imdad, saying:
“The very purpose of executive clemency is to provide a last fail safe to prevent executions in cases – such as this one – where there are clear and compelling reasons to remit an execution.” They add: “Mr. Ali’s case is precisely the kind of case which warrants executive clemency. The man is so unwell that he doesn’t understand the notion that he is to be executed… We strongly urge you to accept Imdad Ali’s mercy petition…allowing him to live”.
UN human rights experts, Pakistani psychiatrists and parliamentarians have called on the government to halt Mr Ali’s execution, while the UK’s Foreign Office has said it is “very concerned” over the case. Nearly 30,000 people have signed a petition calling on Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, to grant mercy to Mr Ali.
Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at international human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “If the Pakistani authorities go ahead with Imdad Ali’s hanging next week, they will be committing a grave, irreversible breach of Pakistani and international law. As the 65 expert lawyers have noted in their letter, President Hussain has the power to grant mercy to Imdad. Not to do so would be an abdication of his constitutional duties – and Imdad’s execution would be an irremovable stain on Pakistan’s justice system and reputation in the world.”
Notes to Editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org
2. The lawyers’ letter is available on request or from Reprieve’s website.