Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network

Pakistan – Poor And Marginalised Suffer Disproportionately From Capital Punishment

Pakistan: Poor and marginalized suffer disproportionately from capital punishment

08/10/2019
Report
In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalized with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan. The report, published ahead of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October), urges the Pakistani government to reform the criminal justice system to eradicate the procedural and policy issues that are among the primary causes of high rates of capital convictions and executions for the most vulnerable members of society.

 

The report, titled “Punished for Being Vulnerable: How Pakistan executes the poorest and the most marginalized in society”, is based on an investigation the two organizations carried out in November 2018 to examine the issue of capital punishment in Pakistan. The investigation focused on fair trial rights for defendants accused of capital offenses, detention conditions on death row, the conviction and execution of juveniles, and the toll the use of the death penalty takes on convicts’ families. A disturbing theme emerged throughout the course of the investigation: lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the deficiencies of Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

“It is highly concerning that those at the margins of Pakistani society are more likely to be convicted of capital offenses. While the death penalty violates the most fundamental human rights wherever it is used, in Pakistan its discriminatory application is particularly egregious” –Shawan Jabarin, FIDH Secretary General.

 

The way Pakistan’s criminal justice system currently operates – from police investigations, to prosecutions, to trials – results in the most vulnerable segments of society being much more likely to confess to crimes under duress, be prosecuted in unfair trials, and sentenced to death. They face an insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process and at risk of being executed.

“There is an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address the numerous failures of the criminal justice system, not only to move Pakistan towards complete abolition of the death penalty but also to promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all.” –Dr Mehdi Hasan, HRCP chair

 

Capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long-lasting harm for family members of those on death row, including socioeconomic impacts. Convicts tend to be their families’ breadwinners, and legal processes – which can last for years – can impose crippling costs. Furthermore, the ordeal can inflict psychosocial anguish. The wife of a death row prisoner expressed the effect of her husband’s imprisonment on her: “[My husband] has been in jail for 27 years. He is being punished inside the jail and I am being punished outside the jail.”

While executions in Pakistan have decreased in recent years, the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. Between the end of a moratorium on executions in December 2014 and August 2019, close to 1,800 death sentences were imposed across the nation’s court system and 520 people were executed. Thirty-two offenses remain punishable by death in Pakistan, including for many offenses that fail to meet the “most serious crimes” threshold under international law. – read more at FIDH website

Poverty is a capital offence

 

Access to justice is a fundamental right of all. But a recent report jointly authored by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that in Pakistan, the poor are on the receiving end of the criminal justice system.

And therefore the poor are more likely to receive capital punishment – a grim reality, expected to come under sharper focus on the World Day Against the Death Penalty observed yesterday.

The report, which looks into the record of capital punishment in Pakistan, points out that “lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by deficiencies in Pakistan’s criminal justice system”.

The poor who face charge of capital crime, invariably face “insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process at the risk of being executed”.

The obstacles they encounter on way to receiving a fair trial are: financial costs, socio-economic inequality, distant courts, lack of information and complexity and requirements of judicial process. Their predicament gets compounded when justice mechanism is corrupt, inefficient and out of reach. Also, the system of investigation as it exists today in Pakistan leaves the vulnerable segments of society with no other option but to confess, and get sentenced to death.

Do the poor of Pakistan have a chance to escape this misfortune’ Given robust commitment to human rights, it is possible and the most result-oriented action should be a big ‘No’ to execution. And if that’s not possible then ask for a moratorium on executions. Otherwise, the legal system as it prevails would keep Pakistan earning notoriety of being one of the world’s top executioners. Therefore, in the words of HRCP chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan, not only Pakistan should opt for abolition of the death penalty but also help promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all.

Given serious security challenges confronting Pakistan and the incurable socio-cultural tradition of exacting revenge the call to abolish capital punishment is likely to remain unheard. Until very recently we had military courts to deliver justice to terrorists, only because the normal legal system was incapable of generating required deterrence against terrorism.

Of course there is controversy among a section of people against these courts, but the reality cannot be denied that the system did succeed to a large extent in curbing the menace of terrorism. Perhaps, the full-doze of 30-year imprisonment as capital punishment, as proposed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, may obviate the need for execution of the convict.

But here we are talking about the ordinary poor who are not terrorists but face the fate of terrorists just because they are poor and an unprivileged segment of society.

To improve their access to justice, not only the legal tools, information and services need to be upgraded but it also requires a holistic approach based on human rights principles. No less important is the report’s argument that capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long lasting harm for members of those on death row. In most of the cases, the convicts happen to be their families’ breadwinners and the long legal processes tend to impose crippling costs on their families.

What the FIDH-HRCP joint report brings to light is indeed a compelling cause for action. Unfortunately, the question whether or not this is doable has no easy answer.

For the poor and unprivileged to have access to fair trial and equal justice the entire system is required to be thoroughly overhauled. As of present, the entire legal system is almost irretrievably stuck in the hundred years old, worn out rut. The law as prevails, was enacted to protect the tree of state instead of worrying about its leaves.

Justice as a fundamental right remains an ever-receding mirage for the poor of Pakistan.

The report is indeed well intentioned, but it should have gone a step further by offering a kind of concrete action plan, particularly on issues like timelines of investigation and the court proceedings and largely prohibitive costs of legal services. – Business Reporter, 11/10/2019

 

Pakistan: Poor And Marginalised Suffer Disproportionately From Capital Punishment

Pakistan: Poor and marginalised suffer disproportionately from capital punishment

In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organisation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalised with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan

Lahore (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 7th Oct, 2019) In a new report issued today, FIDH and its member organisation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), detail the systemic bias faced by the poor and marginalised with regards to the death penalty in Pakistan. The report, published ahead of the World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October), urges the Pakistani government to reform the criminal justice system to eradicate the procedural and policy issues that are among the primary causes of high rates of capital convictions and executions for the most vulnerable members of society.

The report, titled “Punished for Being Vulnerable: How Pakistan executes the poorest and the most marginalised in society”, is based on an investigation the two organisations carried out in November 2018 to examine the issue of capital punishment in Pakistan. The investigation focused on fair trial rights for defendants accused of capital offences, detention conditions on death row, the conviction and execution of juveniles, and the toll the use of the death penalty takes on convicts’ families. A disturbing theme emerged throughout the course of the investigation: lower economic classes and other vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the deficiencies of Pakistan’s criminal justice system.

“It is highly concerning that those at the margins of Pakistani society are more likely to be convicted of capital offences. While the death penalty violates the most fundamental human rights wherever it is used, in Pakistan its discriminatory application is particularly egregious,” said FIDH Secretary General Shawan Jabarin.

The way Pakistan’s criminal justice system currently operates – from police investigations, to prosecutions, to trials – results in the most vulnerable segments of society being much more likely to confess to crimes under duress, be prosecuted in unfair trials, and sentenced to death.

They face an insurmountable systemic bias, which leaves them even more susceptible to violations of due process and at risk of being executed.

“There is an urgent need for the Pakistani government to address the numerous failures of the criminal justice system, not only to move Pakistan towards complete abolition of the death penalty but also to promote a system that respects fair trial rights for all,” said HRCP Chair Dr Mehdi Hasan.

Capital punishment in Pakistan also entails significant and long-lasting harm for family members of those on death row, including socioeconomic impacts. Convicts tend to be their families’ breadwinners, and legal processes – which can last for years – can impose crippling costs. Furthermore, the ordeal can inflict psychosocial anguish. The wife of a death row prisoner expressed the effect of her husband’s imprisonment on her: “[My husband] has been in jail for 27 years. He is being punished inside the jail and I am being punished outside the jail.”

While executions in Pakistan have decreased in recent years, the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. Between the end of a moratorium on executions in December 2014 and August 2019, close to 1,800 death sentences were imposed across the nation’s court system and 520 people were executed. Thirty-two offences remain punishable by death in Pakistan, including for many offences that fail to meet the “most serious crimes” threshold under international law.

This report follows up on a previous joint FIDH-HRCP report, “Slow march to the gallows: Death penalty in Pakistan”, published in January 2007. – Urdu Point, 7/10/2019

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