Pakistan: Execution of minor highlights endemic problems in justice system
The shameful execution in Pakistan of a man who was just 15 years old at the time of the crime for which he was convicted highlights the many serious concerns around the country’s use of the death penalty, Amnesty International said.
Aftab Bahadur was hanged in a Lahore jail this morning. In September 1992, aged 15, he was arrested and charged with the murder earlier that same month of a woman and her two sons.
Aftab Bahadur was implicated in the crime by his co-accused Ghulam Mustafa, who later maintained that he was tortured into “confessing” their involvement in the crime while in police custody. Ghulam Mustafa’s execution was also scheduled for today but it was halted at the last minute.
“This is a desperately sad day – Aftab Bahadur has spent more than two decades languishing on death row even as evidence of his apparent innocence emerged, and has now faced the gallows. He has always maintained his innocence and that he was tortured into a ‘confession’,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
“This case is emblematic of the many serious problems around how death sentences are imposed and executions carried out in Pakistan – the justice system is riddled with fair trial issues and convictions based on statements extracted through torture or other ill-treatment. Aftab was just 15 years old at the time of his conviction.”
"International law could not be clearer on the point that it is prohibited to sentence juvenile offenders to death. But despite this, there could be a significant number of people on death row in Pakistan who were below 18 years of age at the time of committing their alleged crimes. Since the resumption of executions last December, all of these lives, as well as thousands of others on death row, are now at risk – Pakistan must immediately impose a moratorium on executions with a view to the full abolition of the death penalty.”
Executions have picked up pace alarmingly in recent weeks in Pakistan, and at least 150 people have been sent to the gallows since the moratorium on executions was lifted December 2014.
As of today, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty 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 or innocence of the individual; or the method of execution.
Ghulam Mustafa, a co-worker of Aftab Bahadur maintained that he was tortured into “confessing” to the crime while in police custody and that he implicated Aftab Bahadur only as a result of this torture. He was willing to sign a statement declaring Aftab Bahadur’s innocence before his sentence was carried out, but Aftab Bahadur’s lawyers were prevented from having this statement signed by the jail authorities in Multan, Pakistan.
The only prosecution witness who had testified to seeing Ghulam Mustafa and Aftab Bahadur committing the murder later said the original statement was false, and he had been pressured by the police to say that he witnessed the incident.
At the time of the incident, the investigating officers were operating under the now-repealed Speedy Trials Act of 1991, and were required by the law to submit the results of their investigation to the Special Court within 14 days of the offence. In addition, the Court was then required to make its finding within 30 days, leaving little time for Aftab Bahadur and his lawyer to prepare his defence, including drawing the court’s attention to the fact that his age was incorrectly recorded as 21 and that he was, in fact, a juvenile.
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