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Pakistan: UN experts urge halt to execution of child offender, reinstatement of death penalty moratorium

Photo: UNODC
Photo: UNODC

Pakistan: UN experts urge halt to execution of child offender, reinstatement of death penalty moratorium

The Government of Pakistan must halt the execution of a man convicted of a crime committed as a child and reinstate the country’s moratorium on the death penalty, three United Nations human rights experts have urged.

In a press release issued from Geneva, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Benyam Mezmur, the Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and Juan Mendez, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, called on Pakistani authorities to reverse a decision regarding the execution of Shafqat Hussain, scheduled for 9 June.

Mr. Hussein was arrested, tried and convicted at the age of 14 for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter. According to his lawyers, however, Mr. Hussein’s confession was obtained after being tortured for at least nine days while in police custody.

“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 UN experts warned.

“Under Pakistani law and articles 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 37.1 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the death sentence cannot be imposed on a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime,” they added. “Testimonies obtained under torture are also inadmissible.”

Mr. Hussain was originally due to be executed in March 2015 but his sentence was stayed while authorities conducted an inquiry into his age at the time of the crime and on the torture allegations. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which led the investigation ultimately concluded that Mr. Hussain was not a child at the time of the killing however both the legitimacy of the inquiry and the initial trial has been contested.

“In light of reports that the trial against Mr. Hussain and the FIA inquiry fell short of such standards, we call once again upon the Pakistani authorities to ensure a fair retrial of Shafqat Hussain, and to immediately halt the scheduled execution,” the three experts continued.

In addition, they urged Pakistan’s Government to reinstate the country’s death penalty moratorium and carry out “serious investigations” all cases of children on death row.

Since Pakistan’s moratorium was lifted in December 2014, 140 prisoners have been executed while reports indicate that more than 8,000 people are currently on death row of whom several hundred may have been sentenced for crimes they committed as children.