KARACHI: Human and child rights activists opposed on Saturday the possible hanging of a convict, who has been sentenced to death despite being a juvenile offender.

Shafqat Hussain, a watchman at a residential complex, was condemned to death by an anti-terrorism court in September 2004 as he was found guilty of killing Umair, son of a car dealer, after he was kidnapped for ransom in April 2004 within the jurisdiction of the New Town police station.

The jail authorities approached the trial court on Dec 19 to get his black warrant as the appeals of the underage convict were turned down by the high judiciary and the mercy petition was rejected by the president.

The convict was said to be 14 years old when he was convicted and his conviction was mainly based upon his own confession, which was allegedly made after nine days of police torture.

Around a decade after signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child in 1990, the Musharraf regime had promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2000 to enable law offenders under the age of 18 to enjoy special treatment in the eyes of law and bar the death penalty.

However, the JJSO is not considered a perfect piece of legislation as it is badly influenced by the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and other special laws as it has no overriding effect on them.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yousuf said the rights body was against any execution in the country and denounced the possible hanging of the convict.

She stated that Pakistan was a signatory to the UN convention on child rights and amendments to the JJSO were necessary as the law would not serve the purpose until it prevailed over all the existing laws.

Anis Jilani of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child said he was surprised over capital punishment awarded to any underage accused as the JJSO barred it. He said the JJSO still had an overriding effect upon all other laws.

Published in Dawn December 21th , 2014

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