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Pakistan must immediately halt execution of child offender Shafqat Hussain – UN rights experts urge

GENEVA (5 June 2015) – 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.”

(*) The experts: Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Benyam Mezmur, current Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child.

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Independence of the judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Pakistan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PKIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Brenda Vukovic (+41 22 917 9635 / bvukovic@ohchr.org) or write to eje@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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