Pakistan: Plans to execute 500 more prisoners ‘deeply disturbing’
Pakistan's reported plans to execute 500 more people are “deeply disturbing” and would do nothing to protect civilians from the conflict with the Taliban, Amnesty International said today. The reports come following the execution of six people in the past four days in the wake of the deadly Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar.“The planned execution figures being quoted are deeply disturbing and indicate a huge regression from a government which until last week maintained a moratorium on executions,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. “Pakistan suffered an horrific tragedy in Peshawar last week, but resorting to the death penalty and threatening to carry out large numbers of executions masks rather than addresses the underlying problems that need to be tackled by the government – namely that communities living in the north-west of Pakistan are gravely at risk from violence and human rights abuses.”Senior Pakistani government officials reportedly told the Agence France-Presse news agency that 500 convicts had “exhausted all appeals” and would be put to death “in the coming weeks”.Pakistani media have also reported that 55 people convicted of terrorism-related offences are set to be hanged in the next few days after their mercy petitions were rejected.“The speed with which these executions are taking place raises big questions about how meaningful the review of the mercy petitions – the last safeguards in death penalty cases – has been in a country where trials are systemically flawed,” said David Griffiths.“Not only would executing death row prisoners do nothing to protect civilians caught up in this conflict, it could ratchet up the already very high level of violence in Pakistan.” On Friday, Pakistan carried out its first executions since 2012 when two men convicted over their role in two separate Taliban attacks were hanged. A further four people have since been executed.The government lifted a moratorium on executions for those tried of terrorism-related charges last week in response to the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed at least 142 people. The Ministry of Interior has since forwarded hundreds of mercy petitions related to terror cases to the President.Prisoners are at risk of imminent execution once their mercy petitions have been rejected. In Pakistan, many death sentences are handed down after trials that do not meet international fair trial standards. One death row prisoner is Shafqat Hussein, who was 14 at the time of his arrest. His lawyers say he was convicted on the basis of a single piece of evidence - a “‘confession”’ extracted after nine days of torture. International law prohibits torture and the imposition of capital punishment for crimes committed by persons below 18 years of age, as well as guaranteeing everyone's right to a fair trial. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.