Pakistan Urged to Call Off Juvenile Execution Due in Hours

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Pakistan Urged to Call Off Juvenile Execution Due in Hours

LONDON - Pakistani authorities are being urged to call off the execution, due in the early hours of tomorrow (Tuesday), of a man who was sentenced to death as a juvenile, and on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under torture.

A series of high-profile calls are being made to the government to save the life of Shafqat Hussain, who was a juvenile when he was convicted. Since his death sentence was handed down, Shafqat’s torture and juvenility at the time of his arrest have not been fully investigated – despite the fact that earlier this year, the concerns led Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, to order a stay of execution and an inquiry. Shafqat's execution is expected to take place at 00.30 BST tomorrow (Tuesday 9th); 04.30 in Pakistan. 

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In an urgent letter sent yesterday to the President, Amnesty International, Child Rights International Network, Defence for Children International, Human Rights Watch, Redress and Reprieve asked him to grant clemency to Shafqat, whose ‘black warrant’ was handed down last week. The letter, which follows a petition for mercy submitted by Shafqat’s lawyers this week, 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 rights groups will lead a protest from 4pm today (Monday 8th) outside Pakistan’s High Commission in central London.

Specific concerns have been raised by a group of senior UN experts over a government-ordered inquiry into the case by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA). The FIA 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.

The statement, made Friday by 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, 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.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “There are just hours to go until the government executes Shafqat, in spite of the many unanswered questions in his case – including the deeply troubling evidence that he was arrested as a juvenile and tortured into a false ‘confession’. These are serious concerns at a time when Pakistan is rushing to hang hundreds of those on death row. But there is still time for the government to do the right thing – the authorities must acknowledge the problems with this case, and call off Shafqat’s hanging.”

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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