Abdul Basit

Hearing Monday to decide fate of Pakistani paraplegic on death row

A court hearing in Pakistan tomorrow (31st) could decide whether the government should be allowed to execute a severely disabled man.
Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. A Government-appointed medical board recently confirmed that Basit has no use of his lower limbs and is “bed bound with urinary and fecal incontinence.” Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, the Pakistani authorities have issued a ‘Black Warrant’ for his execution – part of a wave of hangings in Pakistan that has seen over 200 prisoners killed since December 2014.
At a hearing in July, the Lahore High Court ordered a stay of execution for Basit, after his lawyers argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment – violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution. Tomorrow’s hearing will decide whether the stay should be extended, or whether the Pakistani authorities should be permitted to execute Basit. There are no provisions for the execution of disabled prisoners in Pakistan’s execution protocol.
Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, at over 8,000 prisoners. The government has claimed that the hangings are necessary to deter ‘terrorists’, but recent reports have revealed that the vast majority of those already executed had no links to terrorism.
Commenting, Kate Higham, Pakistan caseworker at Reprieve, said: “There has, quite rightly, been an outcry at the Pakistani authorities’ insistence on hanging a severely disabled man. It is appalling that the government is trying to push through its plans to kill Basit, when the only result would be a grotesque, cruel spectacle – and the pointless loss of yet another life. It’s to be hoped that the court puts a halt to these grisly plans – but the international community must also step in and urge Pakistan to end this terrible wave of executions.”
Source: Reprieve, August 30, 2015

 

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Pakistan to hang paraplegic convict ‘from his wheelchair’

August 20, 2015 (telegraph)

Wheelchair-bound Abdul Basit, 43, will be hanged despite appeals from human rights groups

A paraplegic man is facing the prospect of being hanged by prison officials in Pakistan from his wheelchair as he is unable to mount the scaffold.

Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted of murder in 2009 but developed tuberculosis one year later, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

A “Black Warrant” was issued for his execution on July 29 but appeals from Basit’s legal team led to a stay of execution.

They now await a final hearing on August 25 which will decide whether to go ahead with the procedure.

It means that prison officials are grappling with the conundrum of how much rope is required to hang a man who cannot support his own body weight.

Basit’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan have issued an urgent mercy appeal to Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, claiming that hanging a wheelchair-bound person is in breach of its own prison regulations.

“Given that the condemned prisoner is unable to use his lower body to support his own weight and unable to stand, it is not possible to accurately measure the length of rope required for his hanging,” they wrote.

“Consequently, no provision can be safely made for the accurate measurement of the rope that would hang him and to proceed with an inaccurately-measured length of rope would place him at risk of an appalling death.”

Extracts from a prison handbook, seen by The Telegraph, stipulate that prisoners must be able to “stand” on the scaffold.

A medical report signed by two Pakistani doctors describing Abdul Basit's physical condition

A medical report signed by two Pakistani doctors describing Abdul Basit’s physical condition

One extract reads: “The drop is the length of the rope from a point on the rope outside the angle of the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold, to the point where the lope is embraced in the noose after allowing for the constriction of the neck that takes place in hanging.

“The condemned prisoner shall mount the scaffold and shall be placed directly under the beam to which the rope is attached, the warders still holding him by the arms.”

As Basit would be unable to “mount” the scaffold or “stand” beneath the noose, and there are no legal provisions in place for hanging disabled people, the execution should be called off, his lawyers said.

Pakistan has carried out a spate of executions after it lifted a moratorium in response to last year’s Peshawar massacre, which saw Taliban soldiers gun down around 130 schoolboys.

Nearly 200 convicts have been hanged since the December 2014 attack, ostensibly in a bid to crack down on terrorism – though critics note that many of those executed are not convicted of terror-related offences.

Maya Foa, the head of legal charity Reprieve’s death penalty team, warned Basit’s hanging would be a “cruel and violent spectacle”.

A medical report signed by two Pakistani doctors describing Abdul Basit's physical condition

A medical report signed by two Pakistani doctors describing Abdul Basit’s physical condition

“The decision to go ahead with the hanging of a severely disabled man would mark a new low for the Pakistani justice system,” she said.

“Abdul Basit contracted tubercular meningitis while imprisoned; authorities failed to provide proper medical assistance and as a result, his illness worsened, leaving him entirely paralysed from the waist down.

“Abdul’s hanging would be a cruel and violent spectacle, unlawful under both Pakistani and international law, and an affront to justice and humanity. Abdul’s execution should be stayed, and the moratorium reinstated, before more lives are senselessly lost.”

A medical report seen by The Telegraph describes Basit’s paraplegia as a “complication of tuberculous meningitis.”

“At this moment, he is having 0/5 power in lower limbs and 4/5 power in upper limbs,” Dr Javaid Iqbal and Dr Anjum Mehdi wrote in the report.

“In our opinion, patients with this condition are usually permanently disabled and there is almost no chance of any recovery. He is likely to remain bed bound for his life,” they added.

Earlier this month Pakistan hanged Shafqat Hussain, a young man whose murder confession was extracted through torture when he was just 14 years old, according to his legal team and human rights groups.

United Nations rights experts said his trial “fell short of international standards” and had urged Pakistan to investigate claims he confessed under torture, as well as his age.

Should Basit’s hanging go ahead, it is understood to be the first case in Pakistan’s history of a state execution of a wheelchair-bound convict.

A similar incident occurred in 1993 in the United States where an “extremely disabled” killer was put to death in a Virginia prison.

Charles Stamper, 39, who suffered spinal injuries after a fight in prison, used leg braces and a walker to take his final steps to the electric chair.

 

Pakistan court grants stay of execution to paraplegic prisoner

July 28, 2015

A court in Pakistan today stayed the execution of a paraplegic man who was set to hang tomorrow (Wednesday).
Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, a ‘Black Warrant’ issued last week scheduled his execution for July 29th.
The Lahore High Court today upheld an appeal by lawyers for Basit who argued that his execution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution.
The Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 – the statute regulating executions – state that the rope for hanging must be the correct length, in order to avoid prisoners facing protracted strangulation (if it is too long) or decapitation (if it is too short). The rules state that the rope’s length is determined by measuring it from “the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold.” This and other procedures set out in the Prison Rules cannot be followed in Basit’s case, leaving open the possibility of a botched hanging.
The Court has now given the government two weeks to respond to the appeal with a hearing scheduled for August 17th.
Pakistan’s law makes provisions for mercy to be granted in cases where prisoners are suffering from severe “ill-health”. The Government’s failure to acknowledge this and commute Basit’s sentence appears to form part of a worrying trend involving the blanket dismissal of all mercy petitions considered since executions resumed in 2014. Over 180 prisoners have been hanged in Pakistan’s recent rush to the gallows and recent reports suggest that many more who have now had their mercy petitions dismissed without proper consideration may be next in line.
Among them is Shafqat Hussain, convicted and sentenced to death when under 18, who was yesterday issued with a ‘black warrant’. His execution has been set for August 4th despite widespread concerns over torture and the government covering up evidence – notably a school record – that could prove his age.
Kate Higham, caseworker at human rights NGO Reprieve, said: “We are enormously relieved by the court’s decision today. To allow Pakistan’s government to continue with the hanging of a paraplegic man would have been in clear violation of Pakistani law, not to mention an affront to basic common decency. The government must now commute Basit’s sentence.”
Source: Reprieve, July 28, 2015

Pakistan to execute paraplegic next week, as hanging of mentally-ill prisoner postponed

July 25, 2015

A severely disabled prisoner on Pakistan’s death row has been told he will be executed next Wednesday (29th).
Abdul Basit, 43, was convicted and sentenced to death for murder in 2009. In 2010, he contracted tubercular meningitis in prison, which left him paralysed from the waist down. Despite being unable to stand, and reliant on a wheelchair, a ‘Black Warrant’ issued this morning confirms he will be hanged next week.
In a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan, Abdul’s lawyers have argued that as the Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 – the statute regulating executions – does not provide alternative procedures for the hanging of a disabled prisoner, the execution would amount to cruel and unusual punishment, and would breach Pakistani and international law.
News of Abdul’s warrant for execution came as a last-minute stay was issued for Khizar Hayat, a prisoner suffering from severe mental illness who was to be hanged on Tuesday (28th). Khizar has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, and is held in a hospital cell, reportedly unable to understand his situation. The execution of prisoners suffering from mental illness is prohibited by Pakistani and international law.
Some 180 prisoners have been hanged in Pakistan since the resumption of executions in December 2014. Among the prisoners to have faced the gallows have been others suffering from mental illness, juveniles, and many who may have been innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.
Commenting, Kate Higham, Pakistan caseworker at human rights organization Reprieve, said: “In less than a week, we’ve seen the authorities in Pakistan attempting to execute mentally ill and disabled prisoners. While the stay of execution granted to Khizar Hayat this morning is extremely welcome, it is appalling that the authorities still see fit to hang a paralysed man next week. Pakistan’s wave of executions is nothing but a cruel and pointless spectacle, and must be halted immediately.”
Source: Reprieve, July 25, 2015