HRCP for stay of execution, abolition of death penalty

Lahore, May 14: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has noted with alarm that, despite an informal moratorium on executions, a man on death row is scheduled to be hanged in a Karachi prison on May 23. HRCP has called upon the government to stay the hanging and announce a formal moratorium on executions.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “HRCP has received with serious concern and dismay reports that Behram Khan, a death row prisoner in Karachi, is set to be hanged on May 23. The last execution of a death row prisoner in the country had taken place in late 2008. Executions have since been suspended. HRCP has welcomed the suspension of executions in the country and has on numerous occasions called upon the government to keep the promise it had made in 2008 to convert almost all death sentences into life imprisonment. HRCP wishes to remind the government that the reasons that had caused the stay of executions in 2008 have not changed. These include the well-documented deficiencies of the law, flaws in administration of justice and investigation methods and chronic corruption and on account of these factors a very high probability of miscarriage of justice prevails. Capital punishment remains on the statute books for 28 offences, and the courts continue to award death sentences.

Against this backdrop, the report of Behram’s planned execution on May 23 is a regressive step and raises concerns at several levels. HRCP calls upon the government to immediately halt this and any other executions that might be under consideration and make the informal suspension of executions formal forthwith. Such a decision would do away with the need for the president to issue orders staying executions every six months or so. We also urge the president to favourably consider mercy petitions and convert capital punishment to life imprisonment.

HRCP demands that the government takes urgent measures towards abolition of capital punishment inPakistan, including deletion of the death penalty from the statute books, at least for all but the most serious offences.

HRCP also urges the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aimed at the abolition of the death penalty. The Commission calls upon parliamentarians, political parties and the civil society to join the campaign for abolition of the death penalty in Pakistan and enhance respect for the right to life in Pakistan.”

Zohra Yusuf

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