Juvenile set to hang in Pakistan tonight despite international outcry

August 3, 2015

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall with young Shafqat in the background

Shafqat Hussain, a Pakistani convicted and sentenced to death when under 18 following days of police torture, is set to hang tonight despite widespread calls for a stay and investigation into his case.

Shafqat was sentenced to death in 2004 following days of police torture, which extracted a ‘confession’ on which his conviction was based, despite being under 18 at the time. The Pakistan government has refused to back a judicial inquiry into Shafqat’s juvenility – instead withholding a number of documents, most notably his school record, which would provide proof of his age. A mercy petition is currently pending before the President.

Numerous calls have been made for the execution to be stayed, including from the statutory rights body the Sindh Human Rights Commission. The Commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, urged the government to stay Shafqat’s execution after conducting an extensive inquiry into the case. The SHRC wrote that “there are no eye witnesses [to the alleged offence] but only [the] confession of the accused with [an] allegation of torture.” They criticised previous handling of the case, writing “we fail to understand why [there was] such a careless handling of a serious case where [the] life of a human being is at stake,” and asking whether Shafqat can “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking.” They also criticised the initial government inquiry, carried out by the government’s Federal Investigation Authority, concluding that it was ‘not admissible’.

UN Special Rapporteurs – including experts on torture, summary executions, and children’s rights – have also called for a halt to Shafqat’s execution and have criticised Pakistan’s rush to execute more broadly. In a statement released last week they said that “most” of the hangings scheduled for the coming days “fall short of international norms”, and called on Pakistan “to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

Pakistan has the world’s largest death row of approximately 8500 people. Some 192 have been hanged since its moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December, and it has overtaken Saudi Arabia and the US in rate of executions. The Pakistani government’s claim that it is executing ‘terrorists’ was called into question last week by a Reuters report finding that the vast majority of those executed – an estimated 70 per cent – had no links to militancy.

Commenting, Maya Foa, the Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “It is an absolute disgrace that Pakistan is still on course to hang Shafqat, who was convicted as a juvenile after days of brutal police torture. When will Pakistan’s government listen to the chorus of international and local voices calling for a stay in this case? The fact that the Government has so far ignored the recommendations of a statutory body like the Sindh Human Rights Commission is a shocking indictment of Pakistan’s attitude to human rights and the rule of law. This execution must be stayed before another juvenile is sent to the gallows.”


1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: clemency[DOT]wells[AT]reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140