Death Row’s Children: Pakistan’s Unlawful Executions of Juvenile Offenders

Date.17 Feb, 2017

On 16 December 2014, the Government of Pakistan lifted a six-year de facto moratorium on the death penalty.  Whilst the Government claims that the lifting of the moratorium is designed to curb terrorism, an analysis of the 423 executions that have taken place till February 2017 reveals that the death penalty has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable of all populations including juvenile offenders. Even though Pakistan’s international obligations and domestic laws prohibit sentencing juvenile offenders to death, at least 6 have been executed in the past two years.

Through this report, the Justice Project Pakistan highlights the fundamental weaknesses under Pakistan’s juvenile justice system that lead to the unlawful and arbitrary implementation of the death penalty against juvenile offenders. The violations highlighted in this report compel the conclusion that even though the Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that no executions of juvenile offenders have taken place, the lack of implementation of protective safeguards and protocols particularly whilst conducting age determination investigations means that juvenile offenders continue to be executed. Pakistan’s violations of international human rights law at each stage of its juvenile justice system have essentially created a situation where the country is unable to identify juvenile offenders and therefore, continues executions, unfettered, on the assumption that all those who come into contact with criminal justice system are adults.

The report argues that the irreversible nature of the violations mandates that Pakistan reinstate a moratorium of its application on the death penalty and launch an independent investigation into all death row cases particularly those marked by allegations of juvenility. Additionally, in order to prevent future executions of juvenile offenders and to ensure that they are extended the requisite protections under international human rights standards requires a comprehensive reform of its juvenile justice system starting from the determination of age at the time of arrest to the grant of mercy prior to execution