Pakistan issues 7-day stay of execution for mentally ill prisoner

September 19, 2016

Image of a noose hanging in a dark room

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has issued a week-long stay of execution for a severely mentally ill prisoner who was due to be hanged in the early hours tomorrow (Tuesday).

Calls had been growing to halt the hanging of Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill man, amid concerns that his execution would be illegal under domestic and international law. Earlier today, the country’s Supreme Court ordered the hanging to be postponed, and a new hearing scheduled for next Tuesday (27th). Mr Ali could still be executed as early as next week.

Mr Ali’s lawyers have sent a mercy petition to Pakistan’s President with testimony from medical experts, including the doctor who examined him in prison and diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. The doctor’s report describes Mr Ali as “an insane person.” Prison medical records show that Mr Ali has been prescribed strong anti-psychotic medication, another sign that the authorities recognise he is mentally ill.

The mercy petition provides an array of medical evidence for the President to consider, such as a statement from psychiatric consultant Dr Feroze Khan, who examined Mr Ali’s mental health and recommended that he be transferred to a mental health facility for active psychiatric treatment.

A statement issued by 14 of Pakistan’s leading psychiatrists also warns that executing Mr Ali would run contrary to Pakistani law. The experts, including Malik Hussain Mubbasshar, Professor Emeritus at Lahore’s University of Health Sciences, said that: “[The] Law does not allow such execution of prisoners suffering from this nature of mental disorder in which the prisoner is having a psychotic illness and is unable to know why is he being executed and what will be the consequence of this punishment.”

Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Commission have both expressed concerns about Mr Ali’s upcoming execution, while this weekend some 9,000 people signed an online petition calling for him to be saved.

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

“It’s extremely welcome that the Supreme Court has saved Imdad Ali from execution just hours before his scheduled hanging. There is overwhelming medical evidence that Imdad is mentally ill and should not be executed. President Hussain must now urgently consider the evidence and grant mercy to Imdad – or else risk a miscarriage of justice that can never be reversed”.

ENDS

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. More information about Imdad Ali is available at the Reprieve website, here.