Execution of Pakistan death row convict delayed for third time 

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May 5,Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court stayed  the execution of Shafqat Hussain on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) which called for a judicial inquiry into the age of the death row convict, stayed his hanging until its verdict was issued.

Shafqat Hussain was due to be executed on Wednesday. His lawyers say he was 14 in 2004 when he was burnt with cigarettes and had fingernails removed until he confessed to the killing of a child.During today’s hearing, Justice Athar Minallah inquired as to who had given the orders to hold the inquiry to ascertain Shafqat Hussain’s age. The government lawyer told the court that the inquiry was conducted on the orders of the interior ministry.The court observed that following the Supreme Court’s 2003 orders, the FIA’s investigation into Hussain’s age was illegal.Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which was managing Shafqat’s defence, had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court expressing dissatisfaction over the FIA’s investigation into its client’s age.

Dr Tariq Hassan, the petitioner’s counsel, had pointed out that the Supreme Court in 2003 had dealt with an identical matter where a death-row convict was seeking benefit under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. He said the apex court had held that only a judicial forum can determine the age of an accused.

However, in late 2014, members of the civil society contended that Shafqat was a juvenile at the time of the incident after the government lifted the moratorium on capital punishment.Reintroducing the death penalty was part of Pakistan‘s move to step up the fight against militants since a Taliban massacre at a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December.Shafqat had been due to face the noose on January 14 but the government halted the execution amid protests about his age, and ordered an investigation.He was then set to be executed on March 19 but a day before the sentencing civil society representatives gathered in front of the presidency against the order. The hanging was subsequently postponed for 72 hours and then for 30 days.Death warrants for Shafqat Hussain were issued for the third time on April 24 after an executive inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) concluded that he was 23 years of age when the punishment was handed down.

Hussain’s family has made heartrending appeals to the government, complaining of a flawed justice system that allowed months of torture to extract a confession.

Human rights groups say convictions in Pakistan are highly unreliable because its antiquated criminal justice system barely functions, torture is common and the police are mostly untrained.

 The Oslo Times

 

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