Pakistan: Supreme Court judgement bans executions of prisoners with mental disabilities

Responding to today’s landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of Pakistan commuting the death sentences of Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi, which places a ban on the death penalty being applied to those with mental disabilities, Rimmel Mohydin, Pakistan Campaigner at Amnesty International, said:

“This landmark judgment from Pakistan’s Supreme Court marks an important development not only for the death penalty, but also for mental health. Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi should have been taken off death row the moment their history of severe mental disabilities was brought to the fore. This historic precedent puts a stop to the execution of other prisoners with similar conditions, many of whom have yet to be diagnosed.

“However, ultimately the death penalty itself must be abolished, and we urge Pakistan to re-establish an official moratorium on all executions as a first step in that direction.”

Background

According to human rights group Justice Project Pakistan, Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi, who have been on death row since 1991 and 2002 respectively, have been repeatedly diagnosed with schizophrenia. Both men have had multiple execution warrants issued for them before securing stays on the basis of their psychosocial (mental) disabilities. Both Imdad and Kanizan were convicted of murder.

On 10 February, the Supreme Court passed a historic order commuting their death sentences, stating: "After considering the material discussed herein above, we hold that if a condemned prisoner, due to mental illness, is found to be unable to comprehend the rationale and reason behind his/her punishment, then carrying out the death sentence will not meet the ends of justice."

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.