Imdad Ali, a 52-year-old mentally ill prisoner, has spent 17 years on death row without proper treatment. He was sentenced to death in 2002 for fatally shooting a religious teacher.
During the course of his incarceration, he has been repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, with several medical reports confirming over the years that he is actively suffering from psychotic symptoms and is “a treatment-resistant case”.
Imdad has spent the last four years in solitary confinement in the hospital cell of district jail, Vehari, owing to the nature of his mental illness.
Imdad comes from an extremely poor family. His relatives first noticed his mental illness in 1998 after he returned from a work trip from Saudi Arabia. According to them, he would be found talking to himself or to objects. After he was convicted of shooting a religious teacher in 2001, Imdad could not afford private medical consultants who could detail his mental illness in court and was eventually sentenced to death.
Imdad’s wife raised his mental condition in the trial court but the prosecution claimed he was able to respond rationally to questions put forward to him. The judge, too, failed to mention Imdad’s mental illness in his conclusion when sentencing him to death.
Despite clear evidence of mental illness, Imdad’s appeals have been repeatedly dismissed by the courts. His mercy petitions have been rejected and his death warrants were issued twice in 2016.
RECENT CASE PROCEEDINGS
Imdad’s case came into the limelight in 2016 when the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal stating that “schizophrenia is a curable disease” and not a mental illness. His third execution warrant, however, was not issued following public outcry, a fresh petition from his lawyers and a review filed by the government of Punjab.
In April 2018, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of another mentally ill prisoner, Kanizan Bibi, and clubbed Imdad’s case with hers. Ordering fresh medical examinations of both the prisoners, the apex court stated that this case will set a precedent for all mentally ill prisoners on death row.
“Neither reason nor sensibility allow me to believe that we can execute a mentally ill or disabled person,” then Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar remarked during the proceedings, recalling that international legal systems have unequivocally forbidden the execution of mentally ill prisoners.
“IF A PERSON IS MENTALLY ILL, HOW CAN YOU HANG THEM?”
– FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE SAQIB NISAR,
during the hearing of mentally ill death row prisoners Kanizan Bibi and Imdad Ali
IMDAD’S MENTAL ILLNESS
Imdad Ali was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by jail authorities in 2012, even though his medical records from as early as 2009 have consistently shown him to be exhibiting psychiatric problems. Those who know him, including his family and neighbours, state that the symptoms of his mental illness had been present for many years before the incident even took place. Imdad’s jail medical records show that he has continuously been treated for serious mental illness following his diagnosis; he has been regularly visited by a consultant psychiatrist and prescribed strong anti-psychotic medicines.
It is clear from the records that his mental illness has led to not just extreme mental anguish and suffering, but also physical pain, caused in part by his own delusional behaviour and also by the physical abuse and torment he has suffered at the hands of other inmates.
BASIS OF COMMUTATION
Mentally ill defendants repeatedly slip through the cracks in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. The lack of mental health treatment and training in the criminal justice system, as well as in Pakistan generally, means that many individuals are never even diagnosed. In fact, for many indigent mentally ill defendants, their first contact with a mental health professional is in jail. As a member state of the United Nations, the Government of Pakistan has ratified a number of international human rights treaties that grant rights and special protections to persons suffering from mental illnesses. These include:
The Human Rights Committee has recognized in various judgments that the execution of mentally ill prisoners is prohibited as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 6 and 7 of the ICCPR.
The HRC held that the incarceration on “death row” and execution of a prisoner whose mental health had “seriously deteriorated” amounted to a cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
SAFEGUARDS GUARANTEEING PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF THOSE FACING THE DEATH PENALTY
The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1984 adopted “Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty”. In the same year, the Safeguards were endorsed through a consensus by the UN General Assembly. The Safeguards constitute an enumeration of minimum standards to be applied in countries that still impose capital punishment.
The Third Safeguard states:
“Persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime shall not be sentenced to death, nor shall the death sentence be carried out on pregnant women, or on new mothers, or on persons who have become insane.”
The third safeguard was amplified by the Economic and Social Council in 1988 with the words “persons suffering from mental retardation or extremely limited mental competence”.
- STATE FAILED TO SAFEGUARD THE RIGHTS OF IMDAD ALI, SAYS ADVOCATE GENERAL, PUNJAB:
- MEDICAL BOARD TO BE ASSEMBLED TO ASSESS IMDAD ALI’S MENTAL CONDITION
- IMDAD ALI REVIEW HEARING ON MONDAY
- SUPREME COURT STAYS EXECUTION OF IMDAD ALI
- IMDAD’S EXECUTION WILL “SET A VERY DANGEROUS PRECEDENT,” SAYS HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH PAKISTAN REPRESENTATIVE
- JUSTICE ALI NAWAZ CHOWHAN RAISES IMDAD ALI’S PLEA BEFORE THE SENATE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
- IMDAD ALI TO BE HANGED ON 2 NOV.
- ‘SCHIZOPHRENIA NOT A RECOVERABLE DISEASE’– DOCTORS DEMAND JUSTICE FOR IMDAD
- SUPREME COURT DISMISSES IMDAD’S APPEAL
- MENTALLY ILL PRISONER’S DOCTOR SHOCKED BY EXECUTION NOTICE
- 14 DOCTORS DEMAND JUSTICE FOR MENTALLY ILL PRISONER
Ask Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan to #BringItBack
Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan, we the undersigned call on you to show mercy to the mentally ill, the physically disabled and juvenile offenders who are currently on death row. We strongly urge you to undertake action to reform our criminal justice system that continues to punish only the most vulnerable members of our society. We demand that until this is done, the Government of Pakistan reinstates the moratorium on the death penalty.
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