A man who was tortured into a “confession” for manslaughter aged 14 has been handed a second execution warrant – just two months after his first warrant caused an international outcry that resulted in a stay.
Shafqat Hussain was charged with the kidnap and murder of another local child and convicted on the strength of one piece of evidence: a forced confession made after nine days of police torture. An execution warrant was issued for Shafqat in December, but after serious concerns over his age and the safety of his initial conviction were raised, the execution was stayed.
In January, Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced to the National Assembly that an inquiry would be conducted into Shafqat’s conviction. He cited concerns raised by civil society about the case, using it as an example of the need for due process and careful consideration in any case where a person’s life is at stake. Despite this announcement, no inquiry has been attempted, and Shafqat was issued with an execution warrant for March 19.
The warrant for Shafqat comes just days after Pakistan announced that it had fully lifted its moratorium on the death penalty – the moratorium on terrorism-related cases had previously been lifted.
The decision to lift the moratorium for all crimes potentially puts at risk all 8,261 prisoners on the country’s death row – the largest in the world. Many of the prisoners received death sentences for non-violent crimes such as adultery, blasphemy, apostasy, sabotage of railways, and drugs offences. In defending the decision earlier today, the Minister of Interior cited the independence of Pakistan’s judiciary as guaranteeing the safety of convictions and the fact that due process would be followed in letter and spirit in all cases.
Maya Foa, Director of the Death Penalty Team at Reprieve, said: “It was outrageous enough that Shafqat was convicted in the first place, at such a young age and following days of torture. Yet for the Pakistani government to brush aside their own promise to investigate his conviction and plough ahead with an execution is an absolute travesty. They must issue a stay at once and carry out the much-needed inquiry.”