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UN rights experts urge Pakistan to halt ongoing surge in executions and to reinstate moratorium on death penalty

GENEVA (29 July 2015) – A group of United Nations human rights experts have called on Pakistan to halt further executions and to commute without delay the sentences of those in death row, as the toll in hangings have raised significantly over the past few months. Over 8,000 people are currently on death row across the country.

The experts’ call comes after the execution of two death row inmates earlier this week. Farooq alias Farooqa and Karim Nawaz, convicted of murder, were hanged in the central jail in Multan. These new executions are the first since the temporary suspension due to the Ramadan announced by the Government on June 13.

“Several other executions may take place in the coming days, and most of them fall short of international norms,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.

“The death penalty is an extreme form of punishment and, if used at all, should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, after a fair trial that respects the most stringent due process guarantees as stipulated in international human rights law,” Mr. Heyns said. “I reiterate my previous call to Pakistan to continue the moratorium on actual executions and to put in place a legal moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its abolition.”

In March 2015, the Pakistani Government lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases, including murder and rapes. This represents a step back since the country lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 for terrorist acts following the Peshawar attack. Since this period, 182 prisoners have been executed in Pakistan.

“Any trial, whether of alleged terrorists or otherwise, should be held in accordance with due process of law and fair trial standards,” added the Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, and on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul.

One of the thousands of people currently on death row in Pakistan is Abdul Basit, who has a permanent disability following severe conditions of detention in Faisalabad Central jail. He was expected to be executed on Wednesday 29 July. Requests to transfer him to an appropriate medical facility have been refused by the authorities and the Lahore High Court. Today, following a new request, the Lahore High Court has finally stayed the execution of Abdul Basit to allow a new assessment of his medical situation.

Khizar Hayat, a man with a severe psychosocial disability who was sentenced to death allegedly without being provided with reasonable accommodation during his hearing, may also be executed in the coming days. He reportedly has never received adequate treatment for his condition.

“We call on the authorities of Pakistan to protect the right to health of Abdul Basit and Khizar Hayat, and other inmates in death row with severe psychosocial disabilities, irrespective of their legal situation, guaranteeing their access to the health services required by their situation,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, said.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, reminded Pakistan of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which it is a party. “The Pakistani Government is bound to respect, in particular, the right to life and the inherent dignity of detainees with disabilities, and must provide reasonable accommodation in detention.”

“I call upon Pakistan to reconsider whether the use of the death penalty per se respects the inherent dignity of the human person, causes severe mental and physical pain or suffering and constitutes a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” added the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.

The Special Rapporteurs also drew attention to the case of Shafqat Hussain, whose trial fell short of international standards. Convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child, Mr. Hussain is scheduled to be executed on 4 August despite the experts’ appeal.

The Special Rapporteurs 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 system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms 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.

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Summary executions:
Counter-terrorism: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx
Independence of the judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx
Health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Disabilities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/SRDisabilitiesIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx

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

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