Pakistan seeks court permission to hang paraplegic and mentally ill prisoners this week
August 24, 2015
The Pakistani authorities will this week petition courts in the country for permission to hang one man who is paralysed from the waist down, and another who is so mentally ill that he is held in a hospital cell.
At a hearing tomorrow (25th) in the Lahore High Court, the government will seek permission to immediately schedule the execution of Abdul Basit. Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite a Government-appointed medical board having confirmed the continuing severity of his condition, last month a ‘Black Warrant’ was issued for Abdul Basit’s execution. The execution was stayed by the Court after an appeal by his lawyers, who argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution.
The plans for Basit come as the Government also fights a stay of execution issued to Khizar Hayat, a mentally-ill prisoner whose stay of execution will be reviewed by the Court on Wednesday (26th). Khizar, a former police officer sentenced to death for murder in 2003, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia since 2008 and is held in a separate hospital cell. In June this year, the Lahore High Court stayed an initial plan to execute Khizar after seeing jail records documenting his severe mental illness, including comments from doctors that “he is suffering from active symptoms of severe psychosis”. He is reportedly unable to understand his situation.
Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row is the largest in the world, and the government has hanged over 200 prisoners since resuming executions in December 2014. Among those already executed have been prisoners who were illegally sentenced to death as juveniles, mentally ill prisoners, and those who may have been tortured into providing false confessions. Questions have also been raised over the authorities’ claims to be targeting only ‘terrorists’.
Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, Deputy Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team said: “It is deeply disturbing that Pakistan’s authorities are trying to go ahead with these two cruel and unnecessary executions. There is surely no justification for trying to hang a man with the severe disabilities from which Abdul Basit clearly suffers – nor for killing Khizar Hayat, who is severely mentally ill and has little understanding of his fate. Killing these two seriously ill men will do nothing to improve safety and security in Pakistan and will further damage the reputation of Pakistan’s criminal justice system.”