Pakistan reaches 150 hangings amid plans for juvenile execution

Noose Image source: "Noeud de pendu en ficelle" by Medjaï

Image source: “Noeud de pendu en ficelle” by Medjaï

Islamabad, Pakistan (Reprieve) – The Pakistani government appears to have carried out 150 executions since resuming hangings in December – taking the country far beyond the US and Saudi Arabia in the ranks of the world’s most prolific executioners.

Figures collated by human rights organization Reprieve suggest that as of today, 150 people have been executed by the Pakistani authorities since December, when the government lifted a long-standing moratorium on the death penalty. Ministers in Pakistan have indicated that they plan to execute hundreds of those on the country’s 8,500-strong death row – the largest in the world – despite concerns over the use of police torture to extract forced ‘confessions’, and the fact that many were convicted as juveniles, breaching Pakistani and international law. Pakistan’s total for executions this year has already surpassed those of Saudi Arabia (90) and in the US (14).

Yesterday, a torture expert called for an independent medical assessment of one such prisoner, Shafqat Hussain, who was a juvenile when he was tortured into a ‘confession’ and sentenced to death. This week, Shafqat was handed an execution warrant setting his hanging for next Tuesday (June 9th), following a flawed inquiry into his age by the government’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) – an organization which the Interior Minister said earlier this month requires a “clean-up operation… to weed out corrupt elements.”

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 (currently confiscated by the government) 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’.

Shafqat’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan have this morning submitted a petition to the Sindh Human Rights Commission, calling on the regional legal body to use its powers to initiate a full, independent inquiry into multiple violations of Shafqat’s rights by Pakistan’s government.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“With 150 executions in less than six months, Pakistan is racing to become one of the world’s most prolific executors – overtaking even Saudi Arabia and the US. Yet more worryingly, it appears that many of those slated for imminent execution may have been arrested as children, and convicted on the basis of forced ‘confessions’ extracted through torture. Shafqat Hussain is one such example – the Pakistani government is hellbent on executing him, despite questions over both his innocence and juvenility. In the interests of justice, the Pakistani government should stay Shafqat’s execution, and allow a proper and independent inquiry into the facts of this case – and of the thousands of others potentially tortured into false ‘confessions’ or convicted as children on Pakistan’s death row.”