JPP holds panel discussion ‘Terror on Death Row’ at Forman Christian College

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) collaborated with the Forman Journalism Society to hold a panel discussion titled ‘Terror on Death Row’ at Forman Christian College in February 2016 as part of the American Bar Association programme “Strengthening Rule of Law: promoting due process and fair trial standards in Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Courts”.
Renowned journalist and security analyst Ejaz Haider and Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Assistant Professor Uzair Kayani joined JPP’s Executive Director, Sarah Belal, on the stage in front of a large number of students as well as practitioners from law and journalism.
“The situation has got worse since the massacre of the school children in December 2014 in Peshawar prompted the moratorium on the death penalty to be lifted for terrorism charges. The definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 and the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2014 is broad and vague and is often stretched to include most ordinary crimes,” said Sarah Belal.
JPP and Reprieve’s 2014 report ‘Torture on Death Row’ conducts a comprehensive analysis of the misuse of the anti-terrorism legal framework in Pakistan and the domestic and international human rights violations inherent in its application. The report demonstrates that out of 818 convicted of terrorism in Pakistan, nearly 86 percent have no links to terrorism. Of the remaining 562, only 112 had committed crimes that could be defined as terrorism as understood broadly.
A detailed analysis was given on the regular use of extra-judicial methods such as torture to extract confessions from prisoners at the ATC. Other challenges to the right to fair trial such as the unavailability of bail to the defendant were also discussed.
Ejaz Haider held that there was inherent tension between a moral principle of not killing non-chalanty during times of war and the necessity to kill during such times. The audience was engaged in a Q&A session after the discussion. While responding to a question from the audience, Haider stated “the existence of Anti-Terrorism Courts is not an issue, but the abuse of these courts is.”
Sarah Belal stated that the criminal justice system in Pakistan was structured towards punishing the unprivileged only, “If you have the capital, you will not get capital punishment.”
“The lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty has further weakened the criminal justice system in the country,” Belal concluded.