Pakistan to execute juvenile tomorrow, despite evidence of innocence

June 9, 2015

The Pakistani authorities are planning tomorrow (Wed) to execute a prisoner who was convicted as a juvenile on scant evidence – hours after a stay prevented the hanging of Shafqat Hussain.

Aftab Bahadur Masih was arrested at the age of 15, and tortured by police into giving false evidence. His conviction was rushed through the court under now-discredited ‘Speedy Trials’ legislation, and was based on the testimony of two witnesses – both of who have since recanted their evidence, testifying that Aftab is innocent, and that they were tortured by police into giving statements. Aftab is due to be executed at 04.30 Pakistan time tomorrow (00.30 BST), having been imprisoned on Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row since 1992.

The plans to execute Aftab come just hours after a last-minute stay of execution was granted to Shafqat Hussain. Shafqat was also illegally convicted as a juvenile, on the basis of one piece of evidence – a ‘confession’ extracted from him after several days of police torture. Despite calls from UN experts and human rights NGOs, the Pakistani Government has so far refused to carry out a proper investigation into either his age or his mistreatment. His stay of execution was confirmed late last night.

International and Pakistani law prohibit the use of evidence obtained through torture and the handing down of death sentences to juveniles, as well as protecting the right to a fair trial.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at human rights organization Reprieve, said: “It is a scandal that just hours after one juvenile is given a last minute stay of execution, Pakistan prepares to hang another – Aftab Bahadur, arrested, tortured and sentenced to death at 15 years old for a crime he didn’t commit. The two witnesses who testified against Aftab at trial have said they did so only because, like Aftab, they had been brutally tortured by the police, and now recant their earlier testimony. Aftab has now been on death row for nearly 23 years, well over half his adult life. The execution of this innocent man, arrested as a child, should immediately be halted – along with all others, lest further innocent victims be killed in this rash wave of bloody executions.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: alice.gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8160

2. Aftab Bahadur’s execution is expected to take place tomorrow (Wednesday 10th) at 04.30 in Pakistan (00.30 BST).

3. Further information on Aftab’s case is available on request, while background on Shafqat Hussain’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here