Pakistan: Man facing execution was convicted at age 14

March 18, 2015

Pakistan: Man facing execution was convicted at age 14

The Pakistan government has resumed executions for all cases and thousands of death row prisoners are at risk of execution. One of them, Shafqat Hussain, was under 18 when sentenced to death and is set to be executed on 19 March.

Death row prisoner Shafqat Hussain, currently in Karachi Central Prison, is scheduled to be executed on 19 March. His death warrants were issued on 12 March. Shafqat Hussain was 14 years old at the time of his trial and was convicted based on a “confession” after being subjected to torture for nine days by the police, according to his current lawyers. He was subsequently sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter under the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2004 by an anti-terrorism court in Sindh province.

Shafqat Hussain’s current lawyers claim that he did not receive a fair trial at the time. The state-appointed lawyer failed to introduce a single piece of evidence or call a single witness in his defense and never raised the fact he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offense.

Shafqat Hussain’s execution would be illegal under domestic and international law. Under Pakistan’s Juvenile Justice Systems Ordinance, from 2000, a juvenile cannot be sentenced to death. Moreover, Pakistan is bound by two international treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by people under 18 years of age.

In January the Minister of Interior, Mr Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, granted Shafqat Hussain a stay of execution after being informed that Shafqat Hussain was a juvenile at the time he committed his crime. The Minister also announced an inquiry into Shafqat Hussain’s age. To date, no inquiry has been held by the Sindh province authorities or the federal government into the matter and he has not undergone a medical examination to determine his age.

Authorities must:

  • Halt the execution of Shafqat Hussain immediately, and re-establish the official moratorium on all executions in the country as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty, in line with five UN General Assembly resolutions adopted since 2007; 
  • Review all cases of people under sentence of death with a view to their commutation and ensuring that no one who was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime is sentenced to death; 
  • Ensure that any measures taken to combat crime do not violate Pakistan's obligations under international human rights law and that all safeguards guaranteeing the rights of those facing the death penalty are respected.

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