PAKISTAN: Inhuman sentencing in practice

Error message

Strict warning: Only variables should be passed by reference in eval() (line 1 of /var/www/crin/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_argument_default_php.inc(53) : eval()'d code).

Summary: We have no comprehensive official figures relating to sentencing of child offenders to corporal punishment, life imprisonment and the death penalty, but reports from various sources attest to the imposition of inhuman sentences in the last ten years. Despite its promulgation, the JJSO is not widely implemented: there are no juvenile courts and children are tried alongside adults with no appropriate juvenile justice protection. As at March 2011, 27 District Panels of Lawyers have been established (11 in Punjab, 11 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5 in Sindh)but are unable to function due to lack of funds

 


Capital punishment and life imprisonment

Shortly after the JJSO was promulgated, the President of Pakistan issued a Presidential Commutation Order (17 December 2001) which commuted the death sentences of juvenile offenders to life imprisonment, though it excluded juvenile offenders sentenced for qisas or hadd crimes.1 As at 2009 the sentences where age at the time of the offence had not been determined were still in the appeal courts.2

In July 2002, Punjab’s Law Minister Rana Ijaz Ahmad Khan was reported as affirming that the death sentences of 74 juvenile delinquents had been converted to life imprisonment.3 According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in July 2003 there were 300 cases pending in Punjab in which the ages of children sentenced to death were contested.4 In May 2004, the federal minister of the Interior stated that there were 13 juveniles under sentence of death – four held in Punjab, seven in NWFP, two in Balochistan, and none in Sindh province.5 By 2005, most death sentences imposed before 2000 had been commuted, but child offenders continue to be sentenced to death.6 In March 2006, the authorities of Mach Central Jail acknowledged holding two child offenders sentenced to death.7

In May 2005, the District & Session Judge Ghokti inflicted the death penalty upon Ateeq Ahmed son of Muhammad Qasim Memon, for allegedly committing murder in February 1999. The Court failed to investigate the defendant’s plea of juvenility by referring to a medical board.8 On appeal, the Sindh High Court referred the matter to a medical board in April 2006, and it was deduced that Ateeq was aged only 12 or 13 at the time of the offence. As at April 2011, Ateeq is in the Central Prison Sukkar-I and the case is still pending in the High Court.

On 21 June 2008 Prime Minister announced that all death sentences (not only those of juvenile offenders) would be commuted to life imprisonment, though this appears not to have happened and in November President Zardari issued an ordinance that extended the death penalty to cyber crimes causing death.9 In September 2009, President Zardari called on provincial governments to submit recommendations on commuting the death penalty to prison terms of 24 to 30 years.10

Death penalty appeals by child offenders have been dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan when age was not recorded at the time of original trial.11 On 4 August 2010, the Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty in a case of murder committed at the age of 17 on the grounds that the issue of age was not raised at the original trial or before the High Court.12 In addition, the Supreme Court remarked that the “Learned Advocate Supreme Court on behalf of the appellant has laid much stress on the factum of ‘tender age’ in oblivion of the fact that the tender age itself would not mean that an accused should not be awarded the death penalty.”

In June 2010, SPARC13 representative Abdullah Khoso met with two prisoners in Mach Jail, Balochistan, who were sentenced to death. Mewal Shah, now 20, was sentenced to death by the Anti-Terrorism Court in Mastung. After four years in solitary confinement his sentence was commuted by the High Court in Balochistan to 25 years rigorous imprisonment (see below). He was just 13 at the time of the offence. Sarfaraz was 16 or 17 at the time of a murder for which he was sentenced to death in 2009. His appeal is pending in Balochistan High Court.14

In January 2011, SPARC representatives met three juveniles in Mach Jail under sentence of death for murder. Bhai Khan son of Shah Mohammad Chandio (now 18 years old) was sentenced to death by District & Sessions Judge Dera Allah Yar. Naseerullah son of Rehan Longov (now 17 years old) was sentenced to death in March 2010. Zahoor Ahmed son of Sajawal Jakhrani (now 17 years old) was sentenced to death in March 2010 by the District & Sessions Judge Dera Allah Yar. As at April 2011, the appeals of all three boys are pending in Balochistan High Court.

Some death sentences of child offenders have reportedly been carried out, including one in 2001 (aged 13 at the time of the offence),15 one in 2006 (aged 16 at the time of the offence)16 and one in 2007 (aged about 15 at the time of the offence).17

Prison terms imposed on children are often severe even when imprisonment is not ostensibly for life.18 In 2000, a child was reportedly sentenced by a court in Lahore to 273 years for aiding and abetting murder and causing the disappearance of the bodies of murder victims – he was 9 or 10 at the time of the alleged offence; his co-accused was 11 or 12 at the time of the offence and was sentenced to 63 years.19 An Anti-Terrorist Court in Multan sentenced a juvenile to 492 years imprisonment.20

Corporal punishment

We have no official information regarding the imposition of sentences of corporal punishment in the last ten years, though it seems that courts do not award corporal punishment (whipping) but do sentence children to “rigorous imprisonment”, i.e. imprisonment with hard labour, despite its prohibition in the JJSO.21 As at October 2010, there were 12 juveniles at the Borstal Institute and Juvenile Jail in Bahawalpur awarded rigorous imprisonment.22

Children are also kept in solitary confinement: during a visit to the Borstal Institute and Juvenile Jail in Faisalabad by SPARC-DCI representatives, it was observed that 15 juveniles were in solitary confinement cells under orders from the Anti-Terrorist Courts in Faisalabad and Multan.23

The Government has stated that children have been convicted under the Zina and Hadood Ordinance and as at December 2008, there were 15 such children, but given no details of the sentences imposed.24 According to one report, in practice whipping and other hadd punishments are usually overturned on appeal by the Federal Shariat Court or the Shariat bench of the Supreme Court.25 Amnesty International reported no hudood punishments being carried out in 2007.26


1 Presidential Commutation Decree, Official Gazette of Pakistan, December 13, 2001, art. 1(a), as reproduced in Supreme Court Monthly Review (SCMR) 1861, vol. XXXVII (2004), cited in Human Rights Watch (2008), The Last Holdouts: Ending the juvenile death penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, pp. 13-14

2 CRC/C/PAK/3-4, 19 March 2009, Third/fourth periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, para. 563

3 “Daily Newsletter on the death penalty worldwide – 29 July 2002”, Hands Off Cain, year 1, n. 4., reported in OMCT (2003), Rights of the Child in Pakistan: Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Pakistan, p.28

4 Annual Report 2003, cited in Amnesty International (2005a), op cit.

5 Reported in Amnesty International (2005b), Pakistan: Protection of juveniles in the criminal justice system remains inadequate, AI Index 33/021/2005

6 Amnesty International (2005a), op cit.

7 FIDH and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, “Slow march to the gallows,” p. 38., cited in Human Rights Watch (2008), The Last Holdouts: Ending the juvenile death penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, pp.13-14

8 Juvenile Justice System Ordinance, section 7, and Supreme Court decision on Sultan Ahmed v the Additional Sessions Judge and 2 others (All Pakistan Legal Decisions (PLD) 2004 SC 758)

9 Amnesty International (2009), Amnesty International Report 2009 : The state of the world’s human rights, London: Amnesty International

10 Amnesty International (2010), op cit.

11 Human Rights Watch (2008), The Last Holdouts: Ending the juvenile death penalty in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen; cf Aziz, R. & Khan, R., (2008). The State of Pakistan’s Children 2008(SPARC Annual Report). Islamabad, Pakistan: Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child. Ch. 4.

12 PLD 2010 SC at 1080.

13 Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, www.sparcpk.org

14 Correspondence from SPARCK-DCI

15 Amnesty International, Executions of juveniles since 1990, www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty/executions-of-child-offenders-since-1990, accessed 4 May 2010

16 ibid.

17 Amnesty International (2008), Amnesty International Report 2008: The state of the world’s human rights, London: Amnesty International

18 Human Rights Watch (1999), Prison Bound: The denial of juvenile justice in Pakistan, NY: Human Rights Watch, p.122-123

19 Reported in Amnesty International (2005b), op cit.

20 Information from SPARC-DCI

21 Correspondence with SPARC-DCI, 2011

22 Source: data sheet shared by the Superintendent BI&JJ Bahawalpur (information from SPARC-DCI)

23 Correspondence with SPARC-DCI, 2011

24 CRC/C/PAK/Q/3-4/Add.1, 1 September 2009, Written replies by the Government of Pakistan to the list of issues (CRC/C/PAK/Q/3-4) prepared by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in connection with the consideration of the third and fourth periodic reports of pakistan (CRC/C/PAK/3-4), para. 57

25 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mohammad Hamza, AGHS Child Rights Cell, Lahore, May 6, 1999, cited in Human Rights Watch (1999), Prison Bound: The denial of juvenile justice in Pakistan, NY: Human Rights Watch, p.127

26 Amnesty International (2008), op cit.

    pdf: http://www.crin.org/violence/search/closeup.asp?infoID=23610

    Countries

    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.