Pakistan issues execution warrant for Shafqat Hussain

July 27, 2015

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

Pakistan today set an execution date of August 4th for Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted as a juvenile following days of police torture.

Shafqat was under 18 when he was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 having been tortured into giving a false ‘confession’. The Pakistan government has refused to back a judicial inquiry into his age, instead withholding a number of documents, notably his school record, which reportedly provide proof that he was under 18.

Last week the Sindh Human Rights Commission, a statutory watchdog headed by a retired judge, called for a halt to Shafqat’s execution so that the allegations of torture and his juvenility might be examined.

In its opinion, the commission wrote that “there are no eye witnesses [to the alleged offence] but only [the] confession of the accused with [an] allegation of torture.” They went further in criticising the way the case was dealt with in the first instance, 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’.

This is the sixth execution warrant that has been issued for Shafqat Hussain since the Pakistan government resumed executions in December of last year following a moratorium on executions that had been in place since 2008. So far, around 180 people have been hanged in Pakistan. There was a brief hiatus in hangings over Ramadan but as that ended the government began issuing execution warrants again. Among those were warrants for paraplegic Abdul Basit who is due to be killed on Wednesday, and another for mentally ill prisoner Khizar Hayat, whose execution has now been temporarily stayed.

The Pakistan Government initially claimed it resumed executions to counter terrorism, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar saying in June, “we are up to our necks – terrorists set a war on us”. But a Reuters article published today has analysed figures provided by human rights organisation Reprieve, and Amnesty International, to reveal that fewer than 1 in 6 of those executed were in any way ‘linked to militancy’.

Commenting, Reprieve caseworker Kate Higham, said: “Pakistan’s relentless attempts to hang Shafqat Hussain are outrageous enough given he was convicted and sentenced as a child following days of brutal torture. That the government is intent on killing him in the face of massive condemnation over their handling of his case by a statutory human rights body is truly shocking. Moreover this comes days after they have set an execution date for a paraplegic man and another for a man suffering from schizophrenia. Pakistan must stay all executions so that all instances of torture and juvenility can be fully investigated.”