16 Apr Aftab Bahadur: Child offender executed in Pakistan
“The police tortured me and then after smearing my hands with oil, put those hands around the room and thus the impressions were obtained,” Aftab Bahadur.
Aftab Bahadur was arrested by police in Lahore on 5 September 1992 along with another man, suspected of murder.He was held in police detention for several months without access to a lawyer. Detainees in Pakistan are often held in police custody for weeks at a time and sometimes up to a year while charges are prepared. They are rarely given the chance to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court or seek bail.
When Aftab Bahadur finally appeared in court in 1993, he pleaded not guilty, claiming that police had taken him to the scene of the crime and forced him to leave fingerprints. His co-defendant also claimed that he had been tortured and forced to leave fingerprints. The judge noted their claims without comment.
Aftab Bahadur was provided with a state-appointed lawyer at trial who failed to produce any evidence or witnesses in defence of his client. State-appointed lawyers in Pakistan are often poorly trained, and may not represent their clients vigorously unless given further payments by the defendant or their family.
Aftab Bahadur was tried before the Special Court for Speedy Trials No.2 in Lahore on 13 April 1993, convicted of murder and sentenced to death. These courts operated between 1987 and 1994 with exclusive jurisdiction over certain scheduled offences including murder and political offences – including non-violent offences – for which the death sentence could be imposed. They operated outside the regular legal system, were presided over by retired judges and allowed for appeals only to a Special Supreme Appellate Court, again outside the ordinary Supreme Court bench. Strict time limits were placed on bringing cases to trial after charges had been filed, length of hearings, and the appeal process. Although the law establishing these speedy courts was repealed in 1994 a number of people remain imprisoned following trials in these courts, some of them like Aftab Bahadur, under sentence of death.
As Aftab was aged 15 at the time of arrest – a child offender – his death sentence was in violation of both Pakistani and international law.
Aftab Bahadur appealed against his conviction to the Supreme Appellate Court. A lawyer was again appointed by the state to represent him. His appeal application is not dated and contains simply four generic points made on one sheet of paper: that the prosecution failed to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt; that there was insufficient reliable evidence to convict him; that he is innocent; and that the trial court judgement was arbitrary and based on conjecture. The appeal court confirmed the conviction and sentence on 27 March 1994. A mercy petition to the President was filed by Aftab Bahadur in 2010. He was detained in a Lahore jail.
Sadly Aftab was executed on 10 June 2015 after spending almost 23 years on death row. His case had caused international condemnation with over 18,000 messages sent to the President of Pakistan in support of Aftab. In the days preceding his execution, Aftab wrote of his life on death row; “I just received my Black Warrant. It says I will be hanged by the neck until dead on Wednesday, 10 June. I am innocent, but I do not know whether that will make any difference. During my last 22 years of my imprisonment, I have received death warrants many times. It is strange, but I cannot even tell you how many times I have been told that I am about to die”. (hyperlink to (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/09/22-years-pakistan-death-row-what-purpose-execution)
ADPAN: When Justice Fails – Thousands executed in Asia after unfair trials, (2011), p33-34 (https://adpandotnet.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/adpan-unfair-trials-asa-010232100-final-pdf.pdf),