A historical breakthrough in the fight against the death penalty

07/07/2008
Press release

On July 2, 2008, the Pakistani Federal Cabinet has adopted a proposal to commute the death penalty to life imprisonment. This proposal is subjected to approval by the President Pervez Musharraf before it enters into force. This will benefit the 7000 death row prisoners in Pakistan.

"We welcome this important step forward, which goes in the sense of the worldwide trend to end capital punishment. The UN General Assembly resolution of December 2007 calling for a global moratorium on executions was an important milestone underlining this trend", said Asma Jahangir, Chairperson of HRCP.

"We now call upon president Musharraf to approve the cabinet’s proposal", said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH. "The deterrent effect of capital punishment has never been demonstrated and the application of death penalty in Pakistan falls far below international standards. At every step, from arrest to trial to execution, the safeguards against miscarriage of justice are weak or non-existent, and the possibility that innocents will be executed is frighteningly high", she added.

In their report of January 2007 on the death penalty in Pakistan, HRCP and FIDH had jointly called upon the government of Pakistan to adopt an immediate moratorium on executions in light of the serious shortcomings of the guarantees of due process and fair trial in criminal trials. The organizations had suggested that this could be done through a decision by the President of Pakistan to systematically commute death sentences.

Given the very serious defects of the law itself, of the administration of justice, of the police service, the chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities, capital punishment in Pakistan is discriminatory and unjust, and allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice. We hope that Pakistan will take a lead in the movement to end capital punishment across the region.

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