Pakistan executes Shafqat Hussain, sentenced to death as a juvenile
August 4, 2015
Shafqat Hussain was this morning executed in Pakistan, despite widespread calls both within and outside the country for a stay. The governments of the Sindh and Azad Kashmir regions, the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), UN experts, and international NGOs had all called for the hanging to be halted in order for an investigation to take place into Shafqat’s young age when he was sentenced, and the reliance by prosecutors on a “confession” extracted through torture.
Despite the calls, the Pakistan authorities have never undertaken a proper, judicial investigation into either issue, instead seizing and refusing to release key evidence such as Shafqat’s school record, which could have provided proof that he was under 18 when he was sentenced to death. The SHRC, headed by a former Supreme Court judge, questioned how he could “be executed when there is so much confusion and the evidence is lacking,” and declared the only inquiry carried out by the government into his age to be “inadmissible.”
Some of Shafqat’s final words, provided to CNN via his lawyers, were published earlier today. He described what it was like to have been told he was going to be executed seven different times, and the process of waiting for the hanging to take place.
“When the jailer tells me that my execution date has been set, he separates me immediately from the other prisoners. I spend all seven days by myself in a cell in the barracks for prisoners about to be executed. They conduct a physical exam every one of those seven days. They weigh me every day, take my blood pressure and temperature as well. On the last two days they also measure my height, my neck and my body for the clothes I am to wear when they hang me. One day before my hanging, they tell me about my final visit with my family and that I need to execute my will. I cannot really say what I am thinking in those last seven days. My brain is thinking all sorts of things.”
Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said:
“Shafqat’s execution speaks to all that is wrong with Pakistan’s race to the gallows. He faced a catalogue of injustice, sentenced to death while still a child after being tortured by the police until he produced a so-called confession. The government’s decision to push ahead with the execution despite calls to halt it from across Pakistan and around the world seems to have been more a show of political power than anything to do with justice. It is hard to see how anyone can now believe their claims that their enthusiastic resumption of hangings is anything to do with the safety and security of the country.”