HRCP wants stay of execution, abolition of death penalty

September 10, 2014 Off By Web Desk

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over reports that despite an informal moratorium on executions, a murder convict is scheduled to be hanged in Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, on September 18.

In a statement issued on Thursday, HRCP called upon the government to stay the hanging and announce a formal moratorium on executions. The commission said: “It has received with great alarm and dismay reports that Shoaib Sarwar, a death row prisoner currently detained in Haripur prison, is set to be hanged in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail on September 18.

“The convict was awarded death sentence on July 2, 1998 on the charge of murdering Awais Nawaz in Wah Cantt in 1996. The victim’s brother had moved the high court against the delay in implementing the sentence despite exhaustion of all appeals by the convict and rejection of his clemency plea by the president. The high court ordered the district and sessions judge to implement the execution of the sentence.

“The last execution of a civilian death row prisoner in the country had taken place in late 2008. Executions have since been suspended. HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that have caused the stay of executions since 2008 have not changed. These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption. In view of these factors, capital punishment allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice, which is wholly unacceptable in a civilised society, particularly because the punishment is irreversible. Despite the informal stay of executions, capital punishment remains on Pakistan’s statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award death sentences.

“Against this backdrop, Sarwar’s planned execution on September 18 is a regressive step and raises concerns at several levels. The convict’s relatives have once again asked the president to overturn the sentence and are also trying to settle the issue through payment of blood money. HRCP calls upon the government to immediately halt this and any other executions that might be under consideration and make the informal suspension of executions formal without further delay. We also urge the president to favourably consider mercy petitions and convert capital punishment to life imprisonment.

“HRCP demands that the government take urgent measures towards abolition of capital punishment, including deletion of the death penalty from the statute book, at least for all but the most serious offences.

“HRCP also urged the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. The commission calls upon parliamentarians, political parties and civil society to join the campaign for abolition of the death penalty in Pakistan and enhance respect for the right to life in Pakistan.”

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