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Pakistan: Resuming executions ‘not the answer’ to Peshawar school tragedy

The Pakistani government must resist giving in to fear and anger in the wake of the Peshawar school tragedy and maintain its moratorium on executions, Amnesty International said today after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to restart executions for terrorism-related offences.“Yesterday’s attack was utterly reprehensible, and it is imperative that those responsible for this unimaginable tragedy are brought to justice. However, resorting to the death penalty is not the answer – it is never the answer,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Asia-Pacific. Sharif’s announcement came the day after at least 142 people – including 132 children – were killed by Taliban militants at an army-run school in the north-western city.“Pakistan is understandably gripped by fear and anger in the wake of the attacks. However, lifting the moratorium on executions appears to be a knee-jerk reaction which does not get at the heart of the problem – namely the lack of effective protection for civilians in north-west Pakistan,” said David Griffiths.“This is where the government should focus its energies, rather than perpetuating the cycle of violence with the resumption of executions.” Amnesty International calls for those responsible for indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians, including the Peshawar attack, to face investigation and prosecution in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards, but without resort to the death penalty. “There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a particular deterrent in capital crimes compared to other forms of punishment,” said David Griffiths.”Capital punishment is not the answer to Pakistan’s law and order situation and would do nothing to tackle crime or militancy in the country.” Pakistan re-imposed a moratorium on executions in October 2013 and has not executed since the hanging of a soldier in November 2012, while the last civilian hanging was in late 2008. There are currently dozens of people sentenced to death for terrorism-related offences in the country.Many death sentences in Pakistan are handed down after unfair trials characterized by a lack of access to legal counsel and the acceptance of evidence inadmissible under international law. “By extending its moratorium on executions last year, Pakistan did the right thing and sent a message of respect for human rights. It chose to align itself with the great majority of countries that have rejected in law or practice the death penalty as the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment,” said David Griffiths.“At a time when Pakistan’s justice system is struggling to cope with law and order, it can be easy to see the death penalty as a quick-fix. But instead of resuming executions, Pakistan should seek long-term solutions that result in systemic improvements in the administration of criminal justice.” As of today, 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. 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.