UN experts call on Pakistan to halt juvenile execution next week
June 5, 2015
UN rights experts have called on the government of Pakistan to halt next week’s planned execution of Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted as a juvenile and on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.
In a statement released today, four UN experts – 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 – called on the Pakistani government to halt the execution of Shafqat, scheduled for Tuesday 9 June.
The experts said: “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.”
The statement criticises a previous inquiry into Shafqat’s case carried out by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), pointing out that “the legitimacy of the inquiry was contested as claims emerged that the agency was not the appropriate body to conduct the inquiry and by reports of intimidation of witnesses and confiscation of evidence during the inquiry.”
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. A significant number of inconsistencies and errors in government statements regarding the case have yet to be resolved – including an admission by the Interior Minister himself that the jail’s doctor and jail authorities contradicted one another on Shafqat’s age. A Pakistani court has described the FIA inquiry as ‘prima facie illegal’.
Commenting, Maya Foa, the head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“The UN experts are right to recognise the many serious flaws in the case against Shafqat Hussain. The so-called ‘inquiry’ carried out by the Pakistan Government into his case was nothing more than a PR exercise. It is appalling that they are planning to proceed with his execution next week, when they have failed to examine either his torture or his juvenility at the time he was sentenced to death. If this execution goes ahead, it will prove that the Pakistani government has no interest in ensuring there is any kind of justice for the 8,000+ prisoners languishing on Pakistan’s death row, and no qualms about seeing potentially innocent people and juveniles hanged in the process. Pakistan’s Government should heed the UN’s call, and halt the execution of Shafqat and the many others like him.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information please contact Reprieve’s press office: 44 (0) 207 553 8140 / alice.gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk
2. The experts’ statement can be read at the OHCHR website, here.
3. Further background on Shafqat Hussain’s case can be read at the Reprieve website, here.