GENEVA (2 October 2015) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* today reiterated their call on Pakistan to reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty and urgently investigate all cases where uncertain age determination processes have led to sentencing of children to death. It is estimated that 8,300 persons are currently on death row in Pakistan, hundreds of them were reportedly sentenced for offences committed as children.
“It is particularly appalling that in a country where only one third of children are registered at birth and where age determination techniques remain rudimentary, courts can pronounce and confirm death sentences on children based on visual assessment by the police and refuse to take into account evidence of juvenility, even when provided by the Pakistani authorities themselves,” they stressed.
The independent experts’ call comes after this week’s execution by hanging of Ansar Iqbal, 15 years old when arrested and condemned to death. This execution was carried out only a few months after the hanging of Shafqat Hussain, Aftab Bahadur and Faisal Mahmood, all reportedly children at the time of their alleged offences.
Ansar Iqbal had obtained from the Pakistan Registration Authority an official birth certificate proving that he was a child when sentenced. Yet, on 15 September 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to take it into account and to review the case.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms Ansar Iqbal’s execution, which has been carried out, as the previous ones, in clear violation of international human rights treaties to which Pakistan is a party, and despite multiple interventions of United Nations human rights mechanisms,” they said.
According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, “if there is no proof of age, the child is entitled to a reliable medical or social investigation that may establish his/her age and, in the case of conflict or inconclusive evidence, the child shall have the right to the rule of the benefit of the doubt,” the independent experts pointed out.
The experts also emphasized that “basic safeguards for a fair trial have been clearly trampled” in these trials and warned that “failures in the prosecution evidence, refusal to investigate complaints of allegations of torture of children in police stations and prisons despite being widely reported in Pakistan, and dismissal of key evidence on procedural grounds are common practice in the proceedings against these children.”
“Any death sentence executed in contravention of a Government’s international obligations amounts to an arbitrary execution,” the UN independent experts cautioned.
“We recall once again that by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Pakistan has accepted the legally binding obligation to ensure that death sentences will never be imposed on a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime,” they said.
(*) The experts: Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Benyam Dawit Mezmur, current Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Child.
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The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx
Independence of the judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx
Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx
And the Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Pakistan: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/PKIndex.aspx