Pakistan “failed” mentally ill death row inmate, Supreme Court told

November 18, 2016

Punjab’s top law officer told Pakistan’s Supreme Court today (18th) that the state had made failings in the case of Imdad Ali, a schizophrenic man who faces hanging. Pakistan has signed international treaties banning the execution of mentally ill prisoners.

The Advocate General of Punjab told judges that “The state failed to safeguard the rights of Imdad, a mentally ill person”. Mr Ali’s prison medical records were poorly maintained, he said, meaning that the Court did not have access to the full extent of his mental illness.

On Monday (14th), the Supreme Court ordered a panel of doctors to examine Mr Ali’s mental health, adding today that if the psychiatrists find Mr Ali is mentally ill, his execution will be delayed until recovery.

The Supreme Court has previously refused to halt Mr Ali’s execution, saying controversially that schizophrenia is not a mental illness. Today the Chief Justice appeared to modify that position and said that “not every schizophrenic is insane.” He claimed that there are different levels of schizophrenia and that the new panel of doctors will clarify the extent of Mr Ali’s illness.

Mr Ali, 50, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and a 2013 medical report stated him to be “insane.” His most recent medical reports from the prison in September and October 2016 found him to be suffering from active psychotic symptoms. A psychiatrist at the prison has deemed him “a treatment-resistant case.”

Sentenced to death in 2002 over a shooting, Imdad has spent 14 years on death row, with 3 years in solitary confinement in the jail hospital due to his schizophrenia.


Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at international human rights group Reprieve, said:

“This is damning evidence from the government’s own lawyers that Pakistan has failed Imdad Ali. There is already abundant evidence that Imdad is severely mentally ill; his hanging would be a serious breach of Pakistani and international law. The Pakistani authorities must urgently heed these warnings, and commute Imdad’s death sentence before it’s too late.”

Notes to Editors

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

2. More information about Imdad Ali’s case can be seen at the Reprieve website