For Immediate Release
Pakistan Executes Man Who Was a Juvenile When Arrested
LONDON - The Pakistani authorities have this morning executed a man who was almost certainly a juvenile at the time of the alleged offense.
Ansar Iqbal was arrested in 1994 on murder charges – which he denied – and sentenced to death in 1996, despite telling the court he was 15 at the time of his arrest. All the documentary evidence provided to the courts during his trial or appeal indicates that he was a child at the time of the alleged offense; however, the courts have chosen to believe the estimate of police officers that he was in his 20s. He was hanged in the early hours of today (Tuesday).
Iqbal did not have a birth certificate to submit in the early stages of the legal process because he was not registered at the time of his birth – in common with an estimated 2/3 of Pakistanis. He instead submitted school and other family records, which were dismissed by the courts. When his appeal reached Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier this year, he provided a birth certificate issued by the country’s official National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in 2015, which gave his date of birth as 25.12.1978 – confirming Iqbal’s account that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence in 1994.
However, the judges refused to consider the document.
Iqbal’s hanging marks at least the fourth instance in which a juvenile has been executed in Pakistan since the government resumed executions in December 2014. Some 250 prisoners have been killed so far overall, out of a total death-row population of over 8,000 – the largest in the world. A recent Reuters report revealed that the vast majority of those executed so far could not be said to have links with terrorism, contradicting a claim by the government to be hanging ‘terrorists.’
The execution of people who were children at the time of the alleged offence has long been banned under both international and Pakistani law. Iqbal’s hanging took place in spite of Pakistan’s commitments to human rights standards set out in trade agreements with the European Union, with which Pakistan enjoys preferential status.
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “The Pakistani authorities have today executed a man who all the evidence suggested was a child at the time of the alleged offence. The government has therefore committed a shocking breach of Pakistani and international law – and it is shameful that, when Iqbal’s life was at stake, the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to consider critical evidence of juvenility. Before any more prisoners are sent to the gallows, the international community must condemn Iqbal's execution in the strongest terms, and urge Pakistan to bring this brutal wave of hangings to a halt.”
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.