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UN rights experts urge Pakistan authorities to halt execution of a person with disabilities

GENEVA (27 September 2016) – Four United Nations human rights experts* today urged the authorities in Pakistan to halt the execution of Mr. Imdad Ali, a man with a psychosocial disability, and to re-try him in compliance with international standards. An appeal had been filed against this decision but was dismissed by the Supreme Court earlier today, and now Mr. Ali could be executed within a week.

“It is a violation of death penalty safeguards to impose capital punishment on individuals with a psychosocial disability,” the UN experts said. “We urge the authorities to annul the death sentence against Mr. Ali and to ensure a fair re-trial which takes into consideration all evidence relevant to the case including medical reports on Mr. Ali’s mental health status.”

The 50-year-old Pakistani was sentenced to death in 2002 for the alleged murder of a religious scholar. A year before the killing, Mr. Ali had been examined by a doctor and referred to a mental health facility for treatment. His psychosocial disability was raised at his first trial, but his condition was not mentioned in the court ruling sentencing him to death.

While medical reports commissioned in prison in 2009 and 2012 diagnosed him with psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia, in 2015 the Supreme Court dismissed the defendant’s appeal claiming lack of medical evidence proving Mr. Ali’s psychosocial disability.

“The courts have disregarded medical reports asserting that the defendant has a psychosocial disability and have not conducted an independent evaluation of his mental health status,” stressed the experts. “Implementing the death penalty under these conditions is unlawful and tantamount to an arbitrary execution, as well as a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

The UN human rights experts recalled that persons with psychosocial disabilities frequently face the risk of being sentenced to death and executed in breach of international standards.

“States must do their utmost to address this risk, including by providing accommodation during all phases of legal proceedings, and by granting adequate protection from any form of discrimination against them because of their mental health condition,” they stressed.

“We are concerned at Mr. Ali’s deteriorating psychosocial condition, among other things, due to lack of appropriate treatment and reasonable accommodation in detention,” the experts noted highlighting that the denial of reasonable accommodation in detention can be considered a form of discrimination, as well as  cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

(*) The experts: Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Mónica Pinto, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

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.

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
Right to health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.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).

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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