Pakistan Supreme Court to hear death penalty case of mentally ill man
September 26, 2016
Pakistan’s Supreme Court will tomorrow (Tuesday) hear a plea from death row prisoner Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill man who narrowly avoided execution last week. The hearing comes as Amnesty International raised concerns that Mr Ali never received a fair trial.
The Supreme Court session tomorrow will be the first time that judges have seen crucial medical evidence in his case, including a prison report by a doctor who diagnosed Mr Ali with paranoid schizophrenia and described him as “insane”. Mentally ill inmates in Pakistan should not be executed under domestic and international law.
Prison medical records also show that Mr Ali has been prescribed strong anti-psychotic medication, another sign that the authorities regard him as mentally ill. However, this evidence of mental illness appears not to have been included in Mr Ali’s 2015 appeal, resulting in a serious miscarriage of justice.
On Monday last week, the Court issued a week-long stay of execution just hours before Mr Ali was scheduled for the gallows and amid growing calls from his family and community for a reprieve.
Mr Ali’s lawyers have sent a mercy petition to Pakistan’s President with testimony from medical experts. 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.”
Mr Ali comes from an extremely poor family. His family began to notice signs of mental illness as long ago as 1998 – but they could not afford to pay for private medical assessments, which could have identified his mental illness, and possible treatments, earlier. Following his initial detention, his mental illness has been exacerbated by 14 years in overcrowded prison cells and lengthy periods of solitary confinement.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“Imdad’s life hangs in the balance at the Supreme Court hearing tomorrow. There is overwhelming medical evidence that Imdad is mentally ill and should not be executed. The Supreme court must now urgently consider the evidence and grant mercy to Imdad – or else risk a miscarriage of justice that can never be reversed”.