Pakistan's Death Penalty U-Turn 'Exceptionally Cruel'

Press Release
June 27, 2012

Pakistan's Death Penalty U-Turn 'Exceptionally Cruel'

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today called Pakistan's flip-flop over a decision to commute Indian national Sarabjit Singh's capital sentence to a life term a cruel blow to him and his family.

The country’s authorities announced yesterday that following the commutation of his sentence, Sarabjit Singh would be released having served two decades in jail. But on Wednesday, it emerged it was not Sarabjit Singh who will be released, but rather Surjit Singh. Surjit has spent more than 20 years in prison after his death sentence was commuted to life term in 1989.

"The decision to back down from commuting Sarabjit Singh's death sentence -- whether due to a mistake or something else -- is exceptionally cruel to Sarabjit and his family who were getting ready to welcome him home," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. "While we welcome Pakistan's announcement of the release of Surjit, the authorities must do more -- they should stand by yesterday’s announcement and commute Sarabjit Singh's death sentence."

This Saturday, Behram Khan, a Pakistan national, is scheduled to be executed in Karachi. He was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in 2003 for the murder of lawyer Mohammad Ashraf. His execution would be the first in Pakistan in nearly four years and would open the door to further executions.

More than 8,300 prisoners are currently under sentence of death in Pakistan.

"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment -- Amnesty International opposes it in all cases, without exception,” concluded Baber. "Both Pakistan and Indian authorities should commute all death sentences and introduce an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.