HRCP seeks abolition of death penalty, moratorium on executions

Press Release, October 10

 

Lahore: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has called upon the government to end the death penalty in the country, and place an immediate moratorium on executions until the punishment is abolished.

 

In a statement issued on World Day against the Death Penalty on Friday, the Commission said: The government of Pakistan should seriously consider moving towards the abolition of death penalty. While the government’s announcement in June to commute death sentences to life imprisonment was admirable, it has not been followed up by action.

 

The pronouncement of punishment and executions continue in Pakistan amid the acknowledged and well documented critical defects of the law, of the administration of justice, of the police investigation methods, the chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities. In the circumstances, the punishment allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice, which is wholly unacceptable in any civilised society, but even more so when the punishment is irreversible.

 

The HRCP notes that, contrary to the much vaunted argument of deterrence, the systematic and generalised application of death penalty has not led to an improvement of the situation of law and order in the country.

 

It is ironic that while Pakistan has one of the highest rates of conviction to capital punishment in the world – with around 7,000 convicts on the death row in Pakistan today –  yet its law and order situation is alarmingly dismal. The massive application of death penalty has not strengthened the rule of law, but its application has, much on the contrary, weakened it substantially.

 

The death penalty is discriminatory, unfair and utterly inefficient and must be abandoned in accordance with the international human rights law.

 

In the very least the government should also promptly restrict the number of offences carrying the death sentence to the most serious crimes only, and refrain from adopting new crimes entailing capital punishment, in conformity with international human rights standards. Imposition of capital punishment, if it is to be passed at all must be in the rarest of cases and execution of it as a measure of last resort.

 

In the meanwhile, the government must adopt an immediate moratorium on executions in light of the serious shortcomings of due process and fair trial in the criminal justice system. There is a serious danger of miscarriage of justice resulting in taking an innocent life if executions are carried out without serious review of the law and its practice. It is vital that the criminal legal system be thoroughly reformed to reduce the incidence of crimes and to ensure that wrong persons do not suffer through being implicated falsely in cases. This alone will bring us closer to achieving justice.

 

There must also be an immediate end to the sentencing and execution of minors, and death sentences pronounced against persons who were below 18 at the time of the offence should be forthwith commuted.

 

Pakistan must take the path of conforming its practices to international human rights norms. So far it has only challenged these at all forums.

 

Asma Jahangir

Chairperson

Longest sentence to juvenile is 28 years imprisonment: AGHS

Longest sentence to juvenile is 28 years imprisonment’
Courtesy Daily Times – 23 July 2008

* AGHS report says youngest child in jail is eight years old
* AGHS director says a lot needs to be done for betterment of child prisoners

LAHORE: The longest sentence given to a juvenile in 2007 for murder is 28 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 65,000, given by the Additional Session Judge Mandi Bahauddin, an AGHS report at the Lahore Press Club revealed on Tuesday.

The report said that the shortest sentence awarded to a juvenile was for a period of seven days for contravening orders given by the Faisalabad deputy district revenue officer.

The report on children in Punjab prisons has been complied on the basis of information collected from 29 prisons of the province. The report said that the total number of children found in 2007 was 8,098. The number of children admitted to the prisons from January until December was 2,460.

Youngest: The report revealed that the youngest child already in prison in 2007 was an eight-year old who was detained in the Sahiwal Central Jail for murder. It said that the youngest child to be admitted to prison in 2007 was also an eight-year old child who has been detained in the Bahawalnagar District Jail for murder since October 2007, and his case was to be processed until the end of the year.

The report said that there had been a decline in the number of imprisoned children in the 7-11 age bracket. The report said that the total number of convicted children found in the Faisalabad Borstal Institute in 2007 was 619, and that the AGHS had received information about six female child prisoners throughout the year. The report said that they could not receive information regarding most female juveniles as they were detained in the Multan Women Jail. The report said that AGHS had identified 82 cases from the prison data, which required intervention and relief.

Director: AGHS Director Hina Jilani said more should be done for the betterment of children prisoners. She said that the probation department’s role should be made effective, and that children should not be given rigorous imprisonments. The practice still continued in jails and needed to be addressed, she argued. She also said that children who were kept in jail on sexual harassment charges should not be imprisoned with other younger children.

Jilani said that the children who remained with their mothers in jail also needed the authorities’ attention for rehabilitation. She said that the role of a probation officer was quite important in the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) but they were not playing any role, and the police did not inform them when it arrested a child. She said that children in jails were deprived of health facilities and they should be provided with it. Jilani said that the visitors, who came to see the children, should be checked in order to determine whether they were the children’s relatives or criminals. She said that it was also the responsibility of the state to provide juveniles before and under trial with legal aid.

Isl: Students roughed up at silent protest

Islamabad: School students roughed up and arrested for protesting silently on Margalla Road – Received from the Emergency mailing list

students protesting students protesting 2
Yesterday, 12th November, the regime crossed a new threshold by shamelessly attacking, arresting and detaining schoolchildren in Islamabad. A group of students, most of them between 14 and 18 years of age, was silently walking outside a public park as a sign of protest when it was accosted by Islamabad Police. The Police told the students that they needed special approval from the magistrate’s office to walk any further and that they had to wait until such approval or the magistrate himself arrived. The students, unwilling to challenge the police, obliged and sat down where they were. Twenty minutes later, the students were informed that they did not have permission to proceed any further, and were asked to return to their starting point and disperse. Once again, the students obliged, showing that they did not want to confront the Police who had clearly been given specific orders from above.

As they were walking back, the students were surrounded by more than 500 policemen –their ranks now reinforced with Punjab Police and the commandos of the Anti-Terrorist Force –and were asked to disperse immediately. When some of the students pointed out that they were merely walking back to their starting point, as previously ordered, the Police turned violent. They started manhandling the children and charging them with batons, pushing them into police vans. 48 boys were physically assaulted and detained, amongst them a 12-year old boy. Even after they had turned themselves in without resistance, many of them were beaten with sticks and severely bruised. They were detained in the Margalla Police Station for hours, and were prevented from meeting visitors or making calls. They were eventually released after they had signed written assurances not to attend protests in the future. This is another shameless act by an increasingly brutal regime. We must not allow this to go on. Continue reading

HRCP Press Release – State of Emergency

lawyers police clashLahore, November 6, 2007: The Chairperson, Secretary General, Director, Vice Chairpersons and all members of the Council of Human Rights Commission have issued the following statement.

A grave situation has been created by the army chief’s desperate act to retain all power in his hands. The imposition of the new martial law regime has been unanimously denounced by public opinion at home and abroad. The brutal actions against judges, lawyers and civil society organizations have not silenced people’s demand for a transition to democracy, and restoration of the independent status of the judiciary and rule of law. Unless all the steps taken after the proclamation of martial law, in particular the purge of the judiciary, issuance of PCO, restrictions on the media and attacks on the people’s right to political activity and debate, are rolled back neither democracy nor peace will return to the country.

There is no doubt that a proper transition to democratic governance will be possible only after a free, fair and transparent election. The fact however remains that for quite sometime the regime has been doing everything to ensure that a democratic choice is not possible. The way General Musharraf maneuvered to get himself elected by a captive and about-to-expire electoral college made the general election largely meaningless. The imposition of the so-called emergency has eliminated whatever little chance of a proper transition to democratic rule had survived.

HRCP is alarmed at the violence meted out to the lawyers’ community and civil society activists. A large number of them, including women, have been arrested. Bar leaders, including Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, Muneer A. Malik and Tariq Mahmood are detained and being harassed by the intelligence agencies. The line of attack on them suggests sinister designs to persecute them. Mr. Ali Ahmed Kurd former vice president of the Pakistan Bar Council is in the custody of intelligence agencies and is kept incommunicado. These lawyers are leaders of public opinion and they have an important role to play in the present hour of the nation’s trial.

HRCP demands that the proclamation of November 3 and all actions taken under it must be withdrawn and cancelled forthwith and conditions created for a free exercise of the people’s choice. Without these essential steps elections will only perpetuate autocracy and injustice.

ASMA JAHANGIR

Chairperson – HRCP

Mr. I. A. Rehman – Director, Syed Iqbal Haider -Secretary General, Mr. Shahid Kardar – Treasurer, Mr. Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani (Advocate) – Vice-Chairperson Balochistan, Ms. Zohra Yusuf – Vice-Chairperson Sindh, Mr. Kamran Arif – Vice-Chairperson NWFP, Ms. Hina Jilani – Vice-Chairperson Punjab, and HRCP Council Members Mrs. Surriya Amirrudin, Ms. Rahila Durrani, Mr. Tahir Husain Khan, Mr. Malik Adeel Mengal, Mr. Habib Tahir, Mr. Afrasiab Khattak, Advocate, Ms. Musarrat Hilali, Mr. Sher Mohammad Khan, Ms. Salima Hashmi, Dr. Mubashar Hasan, Dr. Mehdi Hasan, Air Marshal Zafar Chaudhry, Ms. Shahtaj Qizilbash, Mr. Nadeem Anthony, Mr. Attiq-ur-Rehman, Advocate, Ms. Uzma Noorani, Mr. Rochi Ram, Ms. Perveen Soomro (Advocate), Mr. Ali Hasan, Mr. Jam Saqi, Mr. Ronald de Souza, Mr. Ghazi Salahuddin, Mr. Amarnath Motu Mal, and Mr. Asad Iqbal Butt.

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HRCP Interns 2006 – First 2 Reports Released

JJSO Counter Terrorism

We have decided to publish, in the form of monographs, studies and reports prepared by interns during their stay with us. Two such studies have just been issued as monographs

*

  1. Jon Sherman, Columbia Law School, HRCP Intern 2006 – Trying Terrorism, Protecting Rights: Counter Terrorism and Human Rights in Pakistan’s Criminal Justice System since 9/11’
  2. Emilie Paquin-Holmested, McGill University, HRCP Intern 2006 – Juvenile Justice In Pakistan’

A copy is available at each Chapter Office. Anyone wishing to secure a copy may kindly contact the chapter offices and get requisite copies on payment of photocopy charges.

The offices will issue copies to members, non-members and research scholars similarly on payment of cost.

Excerpts of the reports can be found on the HRCP Interns 2006 link and soon on the HRCP website