(Amnesty International[) Thousands of death row prisoners in Pakistan have been brought a step closer to the gallows today as Pakistan’s government confirmed a change in its policy on the death penalty by announcing that executions would resume for all capital crimes, Amnesty International said.
“This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan’s pressing security and law and order problems,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.
“Three people have already been executed this year for non-terrorism-related offences. Today’s announcement is a chilling confirmation of the extent of the government’s execution plans.”
Last December, authorities in Pakistan partially lifted a moratorium on the death penalty which had been in place since 2008. Coming in the wake of a massacre of mostly schoolchildren in Peshawar, this relaxation of the ban allowed the death penalty to be used only in terrorism cases.
However, the 24 people executed in Pakistan since then have included at least three people whose alleged crimes had nothing to do with terrorism. Today’s decision would once again allow executions to be carried out for all capital crimes.
Several thousand people are believed to be on death row for a range of offences in Pakistan. Many death sentences are handed down after unfair trials characterized by a lack of access to legal counsel and the acceptance of evidence inadmissible under international law.
“Pakistan is swimming against the global current, as the vast majority of countries have now rejected the death penalty in law or practice. It is the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment and has not been proven to act as a deterrent. The use of the death penalty is always abhorrent, but it raises additional concerns in a country like Pakistan where trials are routinely unfair,” said Rupert Abbott.
As of today, 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt or innocence of the individual; or the method of execution.
A Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court and received a sentence of death by hanging. She was accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a charge she denies, and was arrested and imprisoned. In November 2010, she sentenced her to death.
In an appeal hearing, a high court in the city of Lahore confirmed the death sentence of Asia Bibi last month, dashing hopes the conviction might be overturned or commuted to a jail term. Her attorneys are seeking an appeal with the Supreme Court
Her sentence outraged the international community with many calling for her release.
The Blasphemy law is often used unfairly against religious minorities. Now that Pakistan has lifted the moratorium, more will be at risk of unjust executions.
Please pray for Asia and the nation of Pakistan.