Pakistan: Stop prison executions of the mentally ill on death row

Asia Human Rights
September 19, 2016
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the President of Pakistan

His Excellency, Mr. Mamnoon Hussain
President of Pakistan
President's Secretariat
Fax: +92 51 9207458

Dear Mr President,

The Asian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the case of Imdad Ali, a mentally ill, death row inmate in Pakistan. He is to be hanged on 20th September 2016 on the orders of the Sessions Court, despite a medical report that diagnosed him as "insane".

The details of the case are as follows. A former electrician, Imdad Ali was sentenced to death in 2002 over the shooting of a cleric. Last year his sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court. At present he is detained at the Vihari jail. Imdad has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and in 2013 a medical report stated him to be insane.

Pakistan has signed international agreements banning the execution of mentally ill persons. Imdad Ali's death warrants are in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011. The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions in 1999 and 2000 urging countries that retain the death penalty not to impose it "on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder." Additionally, Section 84 of the Pakistan Penal Code excludes from criminal punishment any person demonstrating a "disorder of his mental capacities"

The hanging will be a clear violation of the UN Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. Paragraph 3 provides: 'Persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime shall not be sentenced to death. The death sentence shall not be carried out on pregnant women, on new mothers, or on persons who have become insane.

Pakistan has a shameful history of hanging the mentally and physically challenged. For instance, Khizar Hayat, also a schizophrenic, was sentenced to death. Khizar's mental state deteriorated due to 17 years spent on death row. Due to relentless civil society efforts, the execution of Khizar's death warrant was delayed, to allow for a proper medical evaluation. But the State remains determined to hang him. A 43-year-old paraplegic, Abdul Basit, also faces the gallows. A wheelchair-bound prisoner at Lahore Jail, Basit was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison. Prison authorities did not provide him with adequate health care, so he became paralysed from the waist down. Despite a government-appointed medical board having confirmed the continuing severity of his condition, a "black warrant" was issued last month for his execution.

Article 9 of the Constitution states, "No Person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with the law," Yet civilian and military courts are sentencing people without following due process. The right to life is a supreme and inalienable right, and any exception to it must be narrow and well-founded. Sadly, the selective application of the law and the collapsing state of the criminal justice system does not permit due process. Hanging by the state then becomes an act of violence against its citizens.

The Asian Human Rights Commission therefore urges you to petition the Government of Pakistan to immediately stop the execution of Imdad Ali. The lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty has done little to deter crime. To ensure that the state complies with its obligations under the GSP+, the United Nations must make the Council membership of Pakistan conditional - on halting executions of those not involved in terrorism and on death row since 1990.

Yours Sincerely,
Bijo Francis
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong