Pakistan sets execution date for man arrested as juvenile

By agency reporter
April 24, 2015

The Pakistani government has issued a so-called 'Black Warrant' for the execution of a man who was a juvenile when he was arrested and tortured into a 'confession'.

Death-row prisoner Shafqat Hussain was arrested in 2004 as a juvenile and sentenced to death on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted after nine days of torture. ( The Pakistani government has attempted several times to issue orders for his execution since resuming hangings at the end of last year. A total of 99 prisoners have been killed since December, including 17 on 21 April alone.

Pakistan's Interior Minister, Chaudry Nisar, had recently granted a stay of execution for Shafqat Hussain and ordered the government's Federal Investigations Authority (FIA) to investigate evidence of Hussain's torture and juvenility, raised by lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and the legal charity Reprieve. However, last week, after concerns were raised about the neutrality of the probe, the Islamabad High Court ordered officials to appear at a hearing in early May to answer questions about their approach. Ahead of that hearing, lawyers for Hussain have submitted evidence to the court of his forced confession and juvenility.

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, with some 8,500 prisoners awaiting execution. Police torture and forced confessions are “systematic” in parts of the country, according to a 2014 report by Yale Law School and JPP. There are concerns that many death-row prisoners could have been forced into 'confessions', and that hundreds may have been arrested as juveniles.

Today's stay of execution sets Mr Hussain's hanging for 6 May.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “It is deeply disturbing that, in the face of concern from both the international community and the Pakistani courts, the authorities in Pakistan are sending ever more prisoners to the hangman’s noose. Given the strong evidence that some of these prisoners were illegally convicted as juveniles – and in Shafqat's case, tortured into a dubious ‘confession’ – the decision to continue issuing execution warrants is perverse. The Government of Pakistan must change course and admit it may have made a terrible mistake, before more lives are lost.”

* Reprieve


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