Many facing execution in Pakistan are not terrorists, says Reprieve

By agency reporter
December 17, 2014

Many of the prisoners likely to be executed in Pakistan as the country resumes executions were convicted of crimes that bear no relation to a terrorism threat, says the legal charity Reprieve.

According to early media reports in Pakistan, executions could start being scheduled in the country within the next 48 hours, and will initially include people convicted on anti-terrorism charges and “heinous crimes”. They could include a fifteen year old boy who was convicted of kidnapping, on the basis of a forced confession extracted after nine days of torture.

The decision to lift the country’s two-year moratorium on executions is consistent with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent public stance against the “existential threat” of terrorism; concerns have been raised, however, about his government's sweeping use of anti-terrorism courts. In the province of Sindh, where Pakistan’s most populous city is located, nearly 40 per cent of the prisoners on death row were tried as terrorists in the special courts – apparently in the interests of securing swift convictions – despite many cases involving non-terror related crimes such as involuntary manslaughter. Trials in the anti-terrorism courts have been criticised as falling short of international standards.

Pakistan has the world’s largest death row, with over 8,000 people currently awaiting execution.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “Today’s announcement puts thousands of lives at risk. The prospect of executions in the next 48 hours should be cause for immediate action from countries with strong links to Pakistan, such as the US and the UK. Our research suggests that many of the individuals who would be first in line for execution are simply not terrorists, and that the law is being abused in a way that perverts justice and fails to keep anyone safe.

"The swift execution of large numbers of people, convicted in trials falling well short of basic standards, is not justice. The tragic events in Peshawar this week require a measured and reasoned response, not a knee-jerk reaction that could see thousands of lives wantonly put at risk.”

[Ekk/4]

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