The recent execution of a death row prisoner is a major setback

Press release

FIDH and its member organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), strongly condemn the hanging on Thursday of Mr Muhammed Hussain, a prisoner at the Mianwali Central Prison, North-West of Punjab. The execution represents a major setback, disrupting a four-year moratorium after the government desisted from executing anyone.

HRCP is deeply shocked by the execution of a prisoner at the Mianwali Central Jail early on Thursday. Hitherto, dates were set for execution of several death penalty convicts in these four years but the grisly punishment was always put off. We do not know if this time it was an oversight or the fact that this execution was based on a conviction by a military court had anything to do with it. The last execution of a death row prisoner in Pakistan before Thursday, in December 2008, was also based on a military court’s verdict. The inference is as disturbing as it is obvious, said Zohra Yusuf, HRCP chairperson.

Former soldier Mr Hussain was sentenced to death penalty by a military court in 2008 for the murder of another soldier. All appeals in court and pleas for clemency were rejected. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani rejected the petition for mercy and President Zardari decided against commuting the death sentence into a long sentence.

Since 2009, the Government of Pakistan had implemented an informal moratorium in the form of a letter by President Zardari turning death sentences into prison terms. In 2010, Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In his first press conference upon taking the presidential oath in 2008, President Zardari announced that death sentences would be commuted. The then Prime Minister Gillani stated on 21st June 2008 that death sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment but failed to issue the notification. The President further requested the Government to draft a new legislation to abolish the death penalty.

Around 8,000 inmates are currently on death row in Pakistan. FIDH and HRCP are concerned that the execution of Muhammed Hussain may end the moratorium, representing a serious setback for the rule of law and respect to the right to life in Pakistan.

The execution of Muhammed Hussain overshadows years of apparent efforts towards abolition by the Government of Pakistan. In the light of the present arbitrary decision, FIDH urges the Government of Pakistan to speed-up the drafting of legislations abolishing death penalty once and for all, so as to avoid executions in the future, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

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