A group of United Nations human rights experts today urged the Pakistani authorities to halt the execution of Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child. The execution is scheduled for 9 June 2015.
Mr. Hussain was first due to be executed in March 2015, but the execution was stayed while the authorities conducted an inquiry into his age at the time of the crime and on allegations of torture during his interrogation.
His lawyers claim that Mr. Hussain was 14 years old when he was arrested and tried, and that his confession was obtained after being tortured for at least nine days while in police custody in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter.
“To proceed with Mr. Hussain’s execution without proper investigation into the allegation that his confession was coerced under torture, and in spite of evidence that he was a child at the time of his alleged offence and of his possible innocence would be utterly unacceptable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations,” the UN experts warned.
“Under Pakistani law and articles 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and 37.1 the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the death sentence cannot be imposed on a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime,” the experts recalled. “Testimonies obtained under torture are also inadmissible.”
The independent experts expressed further alarm at reports that Mr. Hussain “did not receive a fair trial and that the state-appointed lawyer never raised the fact that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence, nor did he introduce any evidence or call any witnesses in his defence.”
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in charge of the inquiry determined that Mr. Hussain was not a child at the time of the killing. However, the legitimacy of the inquiry was contested as claims emerged that the agency was not the appropriate body to conduct the inquiry and by reports of intimidation of witnesses and confiscation of evidence during the inquiry. Despite these claims, the Islamabad High Court set a new execution date for 9 June 2015.
The experts stressed that “international law, accepted as binding by Pakistan, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution.”
“In light of reports that the trial against Mr. Hussain and the FIA inquiry fell short of such standards, we call once again upon the Pakistani authorities to ensure a fair retrial of Shafqat Hussain, and to immediately halt the scheduled execution,” they added.
140 prisoners have been executed in Pakistan since the moratorium was lifted in December 2014 and reports indicate that over 8,000 people are currently on death row, of whom several hundred may have been sentenced for crimes they committed as children.
The UN human rights experts urged the Pakistani authorities to reinstate the death penalty moratorium, carry out serious investigations into all cases of children in death row across the country, and ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into all alleged acts of torture.”