Islamabad, Pakistan (Reprieve) – Yesterday, the Islamabad High Court dismissed a petition lodged by the Justice Project Pakistan challenging the validity of a government inquiry into the case of Shafqat Hussain.
The inquiry – carried out by the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) – was launched after new evidence emerged suggesting that Shafqat, who was convicted on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted through torture, was still a juvenile at the time of his conviction and sentence. The execution of juveniles is illegal under Pakistan’s domestic law and international law, as is the use of torture evidence.
The Court, which had previously suggested that the FIA inquiry was “prima facie illegal”, dismissed the petition, citing the fact that the case had already been the subject of appeals before the Supreme Court as a reason to avoid re-opening the issue. Unlike many common law countries, Pakistan does not have a clear mechanism for re-opening legal proceedings in the face of new evidence suggesting a potential miscarriage of justice.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at legal charity Reprieve said:
“It is disappointing that the Court did not order a full judicial inquiry into Shafqat’s case. Since December, Pakistan has become one of the world’s most prolific executing states – if it is to continue conducting executions at such a rate, the government must ensure that there is a system that allows issues casting doubt on the safety of convictions to be raised at any stage of proceedings.
“There is significant evidence in Shafqat’s case that has yet to be considered. It is hard to see how anyone can consider an investigation by the FIA – currently mired in corruption scandals – to be credible. Unless we see a full investigation of Shafqat’s case, Pakistan risks executing someone who was sentenced to death as a child, as a result of a phoney ‘confession’ extracted through torture.”