Lahore, November 4: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called upon the government of Pakistan to vote in favour of a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) demanding a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The resolution is to be considered at the 65th session of the UNGA later this month.
In a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, the Commission welcomed the informal moratorium on executions in place in Pakistan since November 2008 and added, “We believe that the forthcoming resolution on moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the 65th session of the UNGA shares the commitment shown by the government of Pakistan in suspending executions. In sync with HRCP’s long-standing demand, the resolution also urges to progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed.” Copies of the letter were also sent to the prime minister and the federal ministers of law and foreign affairs.
Calling upon Islamabad to vote in favour of the resolution, HRCP urged the president: “If it is impossible to consider a positive vote on this resolution, we encourage you to abstain at the vote and not to sign any statement of disassociation from the resolution. Such a stance by Pakistan will reaffirm the country’s commitment to a moratorium on executions and to eventual abolition of the death penalty.”
Two previous UNGA resolutions on moratorium on the use of the death penalty—resolution 62/149 adopted in 2007 and resolution 63/168 in 2008—reaffirmed the commitment of the UN towards the abolition of capital punishment, calling upon states that still retained the death penalty to, inter alia, respect international safeguards guaranteeing the rights of those facing the death penalty, reduce the number of offences for which this punishment may be imposed and establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. HRCP hoped that the adoption of a third UNGA resolution on a moratorium on executions by an increased majority of UN Member States will demonstrate that the trend towards abolition was steadily increasing.
Pakistan has one of the highest rates of conviction to capital punishment in the world. HRCP has consistently opposed the application of the death penalty in Pakistan, mainly on account of the critical deficiencies of the law itself, of the administration of justice, police investigation methods, chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities. The Commission has highlighted that the safeguards against miscarriage of justice are weak or non-existent, and possibility of innocents being executed remains frighteningly high. As a first step, HRCP has urged the government to restrict the number of offences carrying the death penalty to the most serious crimes only, and refrain from adopting new crimes entailing capital punishment.
Dr Mehdi Hasan