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

Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

Death penalty to deal heavier blow on the poor —UN special rapporteur

UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said Thursday that the poor would suffer the brunt of death penalty, which is proposed to be revived in the Philippines.

“Death penalty, even when it is officially applied, is a punishment that affects much more severely those who are not well-off financially,” Alston said in a video message presented at the National Congress Against the Death Penalty held in Pasig City.

“They are the ones who are least able to defend themselves, they are the ones who are unlikely to be able to get a decent lawyer, who are not going to be able to challenge the judicial system,” he added.

Arguing against the idea that the re-imposition of death penalty would deter crimes and give more teeth to the law, Alston said it might actually lead to “a dramatic weakening of the rule of law,” especially when the power to take lives is vested upon the “unrestricted hands” of few people.

He noted that there are two classifications of death penalty.

“You have formal penalty, meaning legally-sanctioned, state-administered killing where an individual goes through the legal process and is finally condemned to death, and then the sentence is carried off,” he said.

“But we also have what we can call an informal, unofficial death penalty and that’s even more traumatic in its consequences,” he added, noting that state-sponsored vigilante killings fall under this category.

The spate of killings in the Philippines, both during police operations and  summary executions, amid the Duterte administration’s war against illegal drugs have seized the attention of local and international human rights advocates.

President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly said he is ready to answer and die for his campaign which he said only aims to protect the Filipino people and the generations to come.

During his fourth State of the Nation Address, the President also urged Congress to reimpose death penalty in the country for crimes related to drugs and plunder.

Four lawmakers filed death penalty bills in the Senate—focusing on offenses involving illegal drugs, plunder, and other heinous crimes.

Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) expressed support to the President’s agenda, saying that capital punishment will “add more teeth to the crusade against crime, drugs, and corruption.

Alston, however, said that based on the experience of various countries he visited around the world, killing has not been a proven panacea for problems on illegal drugs.

“The flashy killing of significant number of people might achieve other government objectives but it does nothing in terms of eliminating long-term drug problems,” he said. LBG, GMA News

An article – Which countries still have the death penalty?

  • Death penalty

Which countries still have the death penalty?

Many of the world’s nations still have the death penalty, so who’s doing the executing and how?

By Yan Zhuang

I don’t know if I deserve to live, but I do know that I don’t deserve to die, for everything and everyone around me, for the future, and for others that might be in the same predicament as I am in now.”

So wrote Pannir Selvam Pranthaman on his 32nd birthday, in a letter published by news website Malaysiakini on July 31, as he languished in a cell in Singapore’s Changi prison.

Convicted of smuggling 50 grams of cocaine, Pannir Selvam is one of at least 10 people the Singapore government is preparing to execute, with the inmates’ advocates fearing an imminent “bloodbath”.

Meanwhile, the United States government is gearing up to resume executions at a federal level for the first time in 16 years, with Attorney-General William Barr directing five inmates be put to death by lethal injection.

News of the planned killings, slated for December and January, has deepened the rift between US President Donald Trump, a staunch death penalty supporter, and Democratic politicians, who mostly oppose it.

And Sri Lanka has hired two hangmen in a bid to reboot its death penalty after a 43-year moratorium, as part of a war against drugs.

With strongmen on the rise around the world, and many countries moving to shore up their law-and-order regimes, is the death penalty making a comeback?

Which countries use the death penalty and which don’t?

Just over half the countries in the world – 106 – no longer had the death penalty by 2018, according to Amnesty International.

Another 28 have the death penalty on the books but have not executed anyone for at least the past 10 years, including Russia, South Korea and Papua New Guinea. Eight more, including Brazil and Israel, execute people only for “exceptional” crimes such as those committed under military law.

This leaves 56 countries who execute criminals.

Not including in China, more than 600 people were put to death in 2018. The highest number of executions was in China, although its actual rates of execution are a state secret. Amnesty International estimates thousands of people are executed there each year.

The next most enthusiastic practitioners were Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, which killed more than 85 people in 2018, more than any other country in South-east Asia, and which has more than 600 people on death row.

 

The United States also regularly ranks in the top five. This year so far, 10 men have been executed across five states.

Executions slowly increased annually from 2009 until 2015, when they soared from at least 1061 to 1634, according to Amnesty International. A big contributor was Pakistan lifting its moratorium on the death penalty following a terrorist attack on a school, and executing 326 people in that year alone. The numbers dropped again in 2016 and have been declining since, with 2018 recording the smallest number of estimated executions in the past 10 years.

North Korea is another unknown quantity. Reports of executions abound, although, occasionally at least, the dead come back to life. In May 2018, media worldwide reported that a high-profile government negotiator had been executed over the failure of talks between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. However, days later, a South Korean legislator stated that the official was still alive and North Korean media published a photo of him standing beside Kim Jong-un.

What are the methods used?

Hanging was the most common in 2018, deployed in countries including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Pakistan, Sudan and Singapore, where Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van was put to death for drug trafficking in 2005.

Shooting was the next most popular, used in countries including Belarus, China, Somalia, Yemen and Taiwan. Indonesia uses firing squads, as Australians witnessed with the death of drug traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in 2015.

 

After that comes lethal injection, also used in China as well as Thailand and Vietnam and favoured by the United States, where its use has been mired in controversy.

In 2011, a drug used in executions stopped being made in the US, and its import was blocked by the country’s food and drug authority. Some states tried to obtain it illegally while others tried other drugs.

Amid a slew of lethal injection executions that critics said were botched, inmates sued states, putting executions in some places on hold for years. One inmate was granted execution by electric chair in November.

Beheading, sometimes publicly, is the main method in Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International received two reports of women being sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in Iran but was not able to independently verify them.

Where is the death penalty being used more?

Killings in Singapore have spiked, from two inmates in 2014 to 13 last year, 11 of them for drug trafficking.

In Sri Lanka, no one has been executed for 43 years but in February, the government advertised for hangmen with “excellent moral character” after President Maithripala Sirisena signalled his determination to step up the war on drugs. The country’s last hangman, who was never pressed into service, quit in 2014.

Two new hangmen were hired in June, as Sirisena signed death warrants for four drug offenders. But the Supreme Court, which has banned any executions until October 30, is considering whether death by hanging breaches the country’s constitution by being a “cruel and degrading punishment”.

 

In Egypt, a handful of people were executed in the six years before 2014, when Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power. But, between 2014 and 2018, at least 159 people were put to death, part of a broader crackdown against Islamists and supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Reuters reported an increase in the use of military courts. Sisi is a former general.

And last year Thailand carried out its first execution since 2009 and has an estimated 551 people facing the death penalty.

Death-penalty chamber chairs before their removal from San Quentin State Prison in California, where a moratorium was placed on the death penalty in March.
Death-penalty chamber chairs before their removal from San Quentin State Prison in California, where a moratorium was placed on the death penalty in March.Credit:California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP

Where is the death penalty being wound down?

Iran has killed fewer people lately. In 2015, it executed at least 977 people and in 2017 it executed more than 500, but after it removed the death penalty for some drug-related crimes the numbers halved to an estimated 253 in 2018.

Malaysia suspended the executions of inmates on death row in October but backtracked in March, saying death would no longer be a mandatory penalty for some offences but would instead be left to judges to impose.

The gang rape of a photojournalist prompted these protests in 2013. Five years later, India applied the death penalty for rapists of girls under 12.
The gang rape of a photojournalist prompted these protests in 2013. Five years later, India applied the death penalty for rapists of girls under 12.Credit:AP

What crimes attract the death penalty?

Next to murder, drug offences are the most common crime punishable by death. People were executed for drug-related crimes in China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia last year, and were sentenced in a host of countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Someone can be sentenced to death for economic crimes, including corruption, in China, Iran and Vietnam, and for kidnapping in Iran and Iraq. In Saudi Arabia, torture and rape are also punishable by death.

Various forms of treason and crimes against the state are punishable by death in China, Iran, Lebanon, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and under the Palestinian Authority (with most executions taking place in the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip).

Last year, India expanded the scope of its death penalty to include rape of girls under 12 years old.

In Pakistan, Christians pray for Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother on death row for blasphemy in Multan. She was acquitted.
In Pakistan, Christians pray for Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother on death row for blasphemy in Multan. She was acquitted.Credit:AP

Where does the death sentence exist, unofficially?

In a small handful of countries, the crime of blasphemy is punishable by death either by law or in practice.

In Pakistan, the case of Asia Bibi made headlines when the Christian mother of five was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 over a dispute with some Muslim women over a glass of water, during which she was accused of making derogatory remarks against the prophet Muhammad. In October, the country’s Supreme Court acquitted her on appeal.

While this means that no one charged with blasphemy has been put to death in Pakistan, many have been murdered before their trial or after their release.

In the Philippines, the death penalty was suspended in 2006 but under President Rodrigo Duterte extrajudicial killings have been rampant.

Duterte was swept into power in 2016 after campaigning hard against drug trafficking, threatening to personally kill drug dealers and urging citizens to do the same.

The official death toll of his war on drugs is more than 5500, according to the government, but the Philippines Human Rights Commission fears as many as 27,000 people have been killed.

Duterte is now calling on the government to reinstate the death penalty for drug traffickers, with the matter being debated by the Philippines parliament.

What’s next in Singapore?

The Singaporean government does not announce executions before they happen. Executions are usually carried out at 6am on Fridays, says a Singapore writer, when most of the country is still asleep.

The fate of Pannir Selvam Pranthaman and the other inmates on death row in Changi prison remains to be seen but he is not giving up hope: “I am humbly requesting to everyone who reads this to save my life and give me a second chance.” – Sydney Morning Herald, 2/8/2019

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