Mr. Masih’s execution must be withdrawn immediately

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its deepest concern at the imminent execution of Mr. Zahid Masih, member of a minority community, who is due to be executed today, 12 March 2008.

According to the information received, Mr. Masih’s execution is scheduled to take place today (1). He was sentenced to death by a Military Court on 10 March 2006, following charges brought against him on the 1st March 2005, for murder and rape of a nine years-old boy. While in the military custody for 2 years, he was extensively interrogated for 28 days consecutively and severely tortured to confess to the murder of the boy. In addition, Mr. Masih was allegedly not provided any legal representative during the military trial and he was not allowed to meet with his family during his trial.

FIDH joins the appeal of its affiliated league in Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) to the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and raises, once again, its voice against the broad application of death penalty in the country, falling far below international standards, in particular the right to fair trial. Pakistan ranks among the countries in the world which issues the most death sentences. Given the very serious defects 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.

Background information : Mr. Zahid Masih was recruited in the Pakistan Army as a sanitary worker in August 2001 at the cantonment of Multan city, Punjab province. After being transferred twice, he was sent to the Chirat, a cantonment at Peshawar, in the North western frontier province where he joined the Regiment/Unit 4 Commando Battalion (Special Service Group). One week after his arrival, a 9 year-old boy was sexually molested and murdered by unknown persons, suspected to be members of the Battalion. He was given two months leave and, suddenly, one month after his return to service, he disappeared from the work place and his whereabouts remained unknown for almost two years. Zahid’s family found him in Central jail at Peshawar.

Press contact : Karine Appy + 33 1 43 55 14 12 / + 33 1 43 55 25 18 -

(1) Even though his execution was scheduled for late February, it was delayed for 20 days, due to Zahid’s mother and Church leadership mercy appeals written to the President of Pakistan and human rights groups.

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