Pakistan must stop execution of Shafqat Hussain

Pakistan must immediately halt the imminent execution of a man whose lawyers maintain was a juvenile at the time of his alleged crime and who claims to have been tortured into a “confession”, Amnesty International said.

The case of Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted of and sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter in 2014, has caused enormous controversy in Pakistan. His execution has been stayed three times, and on the last occasion on 6 May was stopped at the 11th hour after a public outcry, pending an investigation into his age at the time of the crime and allegations that he had been subjected to torture.

But despite serious questions about the fairness of this investigation, Shafqat Hussain is now set to be sent to the gallows on Tuesday 9 June.

“The farce around Shafqat Hussain’s execution has gone on for far too long – it is time to end it once and for all. The state has failed to prove definitively that Shafqat was over 18 years of age at the time of his alleged crimes. Sentencing a juvenile offender to death, let alone executing him, is a clear violation of both international and Pakistani law,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

“Shafqat has now spent 11 years in prison after allegedly being tortured into a ‘confession’, with the threat of death constantly hanging over him. President Mamnoon Hussain now has a chance to avoid a travesty of justice by staying Shafqat’s execution and granting his mercy petition – he must do so before it is too late.”

The inquiry into Shafqat Hussain’s age and allegations of torture, by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which concluded on 20 April 2015, has caused controversy. Reports emerged that government officials had intimidated witnesses and confiscated evidence during the inquiry. The Islamabad High Court had previously suggested that the FIA inquiry was “prima facie illegal” as it was not the appropriate body to carry out the investigation.

Shafqat Hussain was first sentenced death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter under the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2004 by an anti-terrorism court in Sindh province. He claims that he was beaten and electrocuted into “confessing”, while the only known documentary evidence available shows he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes of which he was convicted.

In an open letter yesterday, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and three other organizations urged President Mamnoon Hussain to grant clemency to Shafqat Hussein.
Executions in Pakistan have picked up pace alarmingly over the past months. At least 150 people have been put to death since the government lifted a moratorium on executions on 16 December 2014, and the lives of thousands more death row prisoners are at risk.

“Pakistan is fast turning into one of the world’s top executioners. While Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, Shafqat Hussain’s case points to the many issues in the justice system that makes its use so troubling in Pakistan. Widespread use of torture and serious questions about the fairness of trials are just some of these,” said David Griffiths.

“Pakistan must immediately re-impose a moratorium on executions with a view towards the full abolition of the death penalty.”