Lahore, October 8: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government to take early and meaningful steps toward abolition of the death penalty in the country as well as immediately make the informal moratorium on executions formal. A statement issued by the Commission on Friday said:
“HRCP joins the World Coalition against the Death Penalty and human rights organisations across the globe in observing October 10 as World Day against the Death Penalty. On this occasion HRCP reiterates its longstanding opposition to the death penalty, which stems mainly from the critical and well-documented deficiencies of the law, administration of justice, police investigation methods, as well as chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities in the country.
HRCP also considers that the system of justice is loaded against the poor, and that lack of financial means puts those accused of death penalty offences at a serious disadvantage. The death penalty allows for a very high probability of miscarriage of justice, which is unacceptable in any civilized society, particularly so when the punishment is irreversible. HRCP sympathizes with individuals who have wrongly been sentenced to death and with their relatives and other indirect victims of the death penalty regime.
HRCP has consistently highlighted the fact that capital punishment has no special deterrent effect. Even though Pakistan has one of the highest rates of conviction to capital punishment in the world, the incidence of death penalty offences has registered a steady increase in almost all parts of the country. HRCP welcomes the moratorium on execution in Pakistan since November 2008. However, despite the informal moratorium, capital punishment remains on the statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award the death penalty on the pre-moratorium rate.
HRCP demands that the government make urgent efforts to remove the impression that the death penalty in all these offences is sanctioned by Islam, as it has already been held by the Council of Islamic Ideology that Islamic law mandates the death penalty only for a couple of offences, not the 28 currently on the statute books. HRCP calls upon the government to take urgent and definite steps towards abolition of capital punishment in Pakistan. A beginning may be made by making the informal suspension of executions formal and by reducing the number of offences that carry the death penalty. We also call upon the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
HRCP urges the government to take meaningful measures to address the objections of the people who oppose the abolition of the death penalty, including by publicising its reasons for putting in place the moratorium on executions, and mobilise public support for its abolitionist policy through a sustained education and awareness campaign. HRCP also calls upon parliamentarians, political parties and the civil society to join the campaign for abolition of the death penalty in Pakistan.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan