Just hours after innocent juvenile Aftab Bahadur was hanged in the early hours of this morning, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal for Shafqat Hussain- who was convicted as a juvenile and sentenced to death based on a ‘confession’ extracted after days of torture.
A black warrant had been issued for Shafqat Hussain earlier this week and his execution scheduled for 4am Tuesday morning, but a last-minute stay was issued. Shafqat’s juvenility and torture have never been fully investigated – despite the fact that earlier this year the concerns led Pakistan’s President, Mamnoon Hussain, to order a stay of execution and an inquiry.
The Supreme Court refused to even hear Shafqat’s appeal, despite the overwhelming evidence that had yet to be properly considered in relation to torture, juvenility and miscarriages of justice. Pakistan is a Common Law country, meaning that the Supreme Court could recognise an avenue for cases like Shafqat’s – where there is evidence of innocence and an illegal conviction – to be reopened despite all previous legal avenues being exhausted. Yet the Supreme Court would not consider this and refused to hear theappeal.
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Earlier this week a group of UN experts expressed concern over the government-ordered inquiry into the case by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA). The FIA relied almost exclusively on an incorrect trial record in making an assessment that Shafqat was not a juvenile at the time of his arrest, and ignored school records (which have been withheld from Shafqat, his lawyers and the general public) which showed him to have been under 18 at the time.
A statement made Friday by Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Benyam Mezmur, chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child, said: “To proceed with Mr. Hussain’s execution without proper investigation into the allegation that his confession was coerced under torture, and in spite of evidence that he was a child at the time of his alleged offence and of his possible innocence would be utterly unacceptable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations.”
Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Last night, in a truly tragic turn of events, Aftab Bahadur was executed – despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence and the fact he was convicted when just a child. And now Shafqat Hussain’s journey to the gallows could begin once again. Pakistan seems hell bent on rushing through executions of the more than 8000 people on its death row – as many as 1000 of whom could have been convicted as children. How many more people with flagrantly unsafe convictions will be executed before the government sees sense? The Pakistan government must issue another stay for Shafqat so that his age and torture may be properly investigated – and they must reinstate the moratorium in order to examine these problems which plague the entire death row.”