KARACHI: A group of United Nations human rights experts, in a last ditch effort, urged the Pakistani authorities on Friday to halt the execution of Shafqat Hussain — scheduled for June 9, 2015 — who was convicted for a crime reportedly committed as a child.
Hussain was first due to be executed in March 2015, but the execution was stayed while the authorities conducted an inquiry into his age at the time when the crime was committed and on allegations of torture during his interrogation.
His lawyers claim that Hussain was 14 years old when he was arrested and tried, and that his confession was obtained after being tortured in police custody in 2004. He was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter.
“To proceed with Hussain’s execution without proper investigation into the allegation that his confession was coerced under torture, and in spite of evidence that he was a child at the time of his alleged offence and of his possible innocence would be utterly unacceptable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations,” said the UN experts.
"Hussain did not receive a fair trial and that the state appointed lawyer never raised the fact that he was a child at the time of the alleged offence, nor did he introduce any evidence or call any witnesses in his defence,” said experts.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in charge of the inquiry determined that Hussain was not underage at the time of the killing.
The legitimacy of the inquiry was contested as claims emerged that the agency was not the appropriate body to conduct the inquiry and by reports of intimidation of witnesses and confiscation of evidence during the inquiry.
It is pertinent to mention that the inquiry was ordered by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The experts stressed that “international law, accepted as binding by Pakistan, provides that capital punishment may only be imposed following trials that comply with the most stringent requirements of fair trial and due process, or could otherwise be considered an arbitrary execution.”
Shafqat had been due to face the noose on January 14 but the government halted the execution amid protests about his age, and ordered an investigation.
Also read: Shafqat Hussain to be hanged on June 9
He was then set to be executed on March 19 but a day before the sentencing civil society representatives gathered in front of the Presidency against the order. The hanging was subsequently postponed for 72 hours and then for 30 days.
Death warrants for Shafqat Hussain were issued for the third time on April 24 after an executive inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) concluded that he was 23 years of age when the punishment was handed down.