Pakistan resurrects plans to hang paralysed prisoner
November 21, 2015
The Pakistani authorities have once again set a date for the hanging of a prisoner who is paralysed from the waist down as a result of medical neglect while in prison.
Abdul Basit contracted meningitis while in prison in Faisalabad in 2010, and has needed to use a wheelchair ever since due to inadequate treatment. According to his lawyers, he has been told that he will be hanged this Wednesday (25 November).
Because the Pakistan Prison Rules do not provide a means for the hanging of those unable to stand, if the execution proceeds it will be arbitrary and there is a serious risk it could be badly botched, leading to prolonged suffering. This concern, raised by Basit’s lawyers, has led to his execution being stayed on two occasions already this year, most recently after the Supreme Court confirmed that the execution could only be carried out in accordance with the Prison Rules.
Nonetheless, the provincial government has now insisted that the execution can now proceed without any amendment to the Rules.
In addition, a mercy petition for Basit – submitted after his execution was stayed at the eleventh hour on 22 September – is still pending with the Federal Government.
Basit’s paralysis is a direct result of the failure of the prison authorities to provide him with proper treatment. He suffered from a very high temperature and frequently fell unconscious for over a month before finally being diagnosed and hospitalised. Subsequently he fell into a coma for around three weeks. Medical reports concluded that he now suffers from paraplegia in addition to long-term complications arising from spinal cord atrophy, resulting from tubercular meningitis.
Pakistan has hanged at least 300 people since the lapse of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in December last year. Reprieve and other rights groups have expressed concern about serious rights abuses in many of these cases – Basit’s included – and the issue of the death penalty has been repeatedly linked to ongoing negotiations about Pakistan’s receipt of a preferential European trade status contingent on human rights obligations, known as GSP+.
Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve said: “It is bewildering that Pakistan has revived its appalling plans to hang a man who is unable to stand. Nothing has changed since Basit’s execution was halted earlier this year, on the grounds that his disability could mean that he might suffer from a prolonged, needlessly cruel execution. The Pakistan authorities must put a stop to these inhumane plans before it is too late.”
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.