Rights groups urge Pakistan to call off juvenile execution

June 7, 2015

Image of Shafqat Hussain

Leading rights groups Amnesty International, Child Rights International Network, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch, Redress and Reprieve have called on the President of Pakistan to grant clemency to Shafqat Hussain, who is due to be hanged on Tuesday – despite being convicted as a juvenile and on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.

In a letter sent today to President Mamnoon Hussain, the organizations ask him to halt the execution of Shafqat, whose ‘black warrant’ was handed down last week. The groups detail how Shafqat’s torture and juvenility at the time of his arrest – which previously prompted the President to order a stay of execution, and an inquiry – have not been fully investigated; and ask the President to grant a petition for mercy submitted by Shafqat’s lawyers earlier this week. The letter says  “to continue with [Mr. Hussain’s] execution would be in direct contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations” and adds that “You alone have the power to see justice done in this case, Your Excellency, and we urge you to use that power in the name of justice, grace and humanity.”

The groups echo the concerns of four senior UN experts, made public last Friday, over a government-ordered inquiry into the case by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA). The FIA’s inquiry relied almost exclusively on an incorrect trial record in making an assessment that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his arrest, and ignored school records (which have been withheld from Shafqat, his lawyers and the general public) which showed him to have been under 18 at the time.

Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Benyam Mezmur, chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child last week said that “To proceed with Mr. Hussain’s execution without proper investigation into the allegation that his confession was coerced under torture, and in spite of evidence that he was a child at the time of his alleged offence and of his possible innocence would be utterly unacceptable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “In its rush to execute Shafqat and many hundreds of others on Pakistan’s death row, the government has consistently failed to answer the many troubling questions raised by his case – not least, the concerns over his torture and bogus ‘confession’, and his young age at the time of his arrest. It is unconscionable that the authorities have set a date for his hanging when there are still so many unanswered questions. To hang Shafqat would be to commit a grave injustice and show wanton disregard for the rule of law. It is our sincere hope that the President will intervene to save Shafqat’s life, and put a halt on this rash and bloody wave of executions.


Notes to editors

1. For further information, and to request a copy of the NGOs’ letter, please contact Donald Campbell at Repreive: donald.campbell[AT]reprieve.org.uk

2. Further information on the UN Special Rapporteurs’ statement can be found here.

3. Further background on Shafqat Hussain’s case can be read at the Reprieve website, here.