ISLAMABAD, 10 October 2016: The 14th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty is being observed today. The focus this year is on the use of the death penalty for terrorism-related offences, making the occasion particularly critical for Pakistan.
Even though there is a global shift towards abolition, Pakistan is now described as the “third most prolific executioner in the world” after it lifted an unofficial moratorium in Dec. 2014.
A report A Most Serious Crime: Pakistan’s Unlawful Use of the Death Penalty launched by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic last month at the U.N. Human Rights Council Session in Geneva, documents the flaws that prevent Pakistan’s criminal legal system from fairly adjudicating capital cases.
Executing 419 from one of the highest populated death rows in the world has been part of Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to curb militancy in the country. However, not all those who have been charged under these laws have committed terrorist offences. JPP research indicates that 88 percent of those sentenced to death under the Anti-Terrorism Act had no links to terrorism.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also issued a statement that categorically states that “capital punishment does not reduce terrorism.”

Moreover, a condemned prisoner in Pakistan spends an average of 11.41 years on death row. During this time, many suffer from death row syndrome resulting from harsh prison conditions. For some of JPP’s clients, this has meant worsened mental conditions like Imdad Ali and Khizer Hayat and even complete physical paralysis for Abdul Basit.

In light of all these human rights violations, 14 Members of the European Parliament have written to President Mamnoon Hussain today “[urging] Pakistan to reconsider its policy regarding the death penalty.”
To promote a better understanding of the issues at hand, JPP will be observing World Day Against the Death Penalty by holding a day-long event in Islamabad on 24 Oct (delayed on account of Ashura). This will comprise of panel discussions, art installations and a photography exhibition. Details will be shared closer to the event.
Sarah Belal, Executive Director, JPP adds: “In Pakistan, we are not only subject to a criminal justice system that prescribes the death penalty for 27 crimes, but one that is beset with inefficiencies and corruption. This is unacceptable for so harsh and irreversible a punishment that has already been meted out to 419 people too many, including juveniles, the mentally ill and innocents who were tortured into confessions. We strongly urge the government to reinstate the moratorium, and undertake a detailed review of the use of the death penalty, which seems to only punish the most vulnerable.”

Editor’s Notes:

1. Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) is a human rights organization that provides pro bono legal representation to the most vulnerable Pakistani prisoners facing the harshest punishments. Our clients include those facing the death penalty, the mentally ill, victims of police torture and detainees of the ‘War on Terror’. JPP was established in December 2009 and is based in Lahore, Pakistan.
2. For details contact: Wassam Waheed (+92 346 9177771) or Rimmel Mohydin (+92 321 4224941)