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



Pakistan hangs man convicted for multiple murders

Pakistan today hanged a death row prisoner convicted for multiple murders, taking the total number of convicts executed to 212 since the country lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in March this year.
Maqbool Hussain was hanged early this morning in Multan central jail in Punjab province.
Hussain was convicted for murdering 6 people in 1996 to avenge the killing of his brothers and his petitions were already rejected by higher courts.
Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.
Executions in Pakistan resumed in December last year, ending a 6-year moratorium, after Taliban fighters gunned down 154 people, most of them children, at a school in Peshawar.
Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism offences, but in March they were extended to all capital offences.
So far 212 convicts have been executed in total despite the criticism from United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
More than 8,000 prisoners are on death row in Pakistan and about 160 convicts have been executed since the Nawaz Sharif government lifted moratorium on death penalty.
Source: Press Trust of India, August 27, 2015


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.


Waiting to die for decades in Pakistan

Convicts on death row in Pakistan are in double jeopardy, having to spend decades behind bars before the eventual executions, a wait made torturous because of the slow-moving legal process, weak prosecution and police investigation system riddled with corruption
Islambad: Aftab Bahadur Masih spent more than two decades of his youth inside the tiny and dark cells of a Pakistani prison, before a final walk to the gallows this summer.
Masih, who was 38 when he was hanged, was arrested in Lahore in 1992 for murdering a woman and two of her children. In the 23 years between his arrest and hanging, the man was shuttled from cell to cell, waiting for his trials and appeals to conclude.
Even towards the end of his life, he was hoping that the government would commute the death penalty to life imprisonment, according to his family and British charity Reprieve.
The decades of uncertainty, the waiting and then the eventual execution — this is what haunts Pakistan’s death row inmates and their families.
“This is the worst thing that can happen to a person,” said Rizwan Khan, a human rights lawyer in Islamabad.
“It is like punishing people twice for one crime,” said Khan, who deals with scores of similar cases. One of his clients, Mohammad Saleem, has been on trial since 1999.
There are 8,500 death row convicts in prisons across the country, and the government has made clear that it wants to hang them all.
Complicated process
Pakistan ended a six-year moratorium on executions after a Taliban massacre of 136 children at an army-run school in the north-western city of Peshawar in December 2014.
Since then, some 180 convicts have been executed over seven months, a move that has drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations, European Union and human rights groups. Khan blamed the complicated judicial regime and legal process that moves at a glacial pace, coupled with weak prosecution, for the fact that so many of these inmates have to languish behind bars for decades before their executions.
“The convict and the family not only go through mental agony but also have to spend loads of money in courts and jails as fees and bribes,” Khan said.
Hours before his execution in June, Masih wrote a moving narrative about his life in jail and explained how the fear of death had shackled him twice.
“I just received my death warrant,” Masih wrote. “I am innocent but I do not know whether that will make any difference. I die many times before my death… I doubt there is anything more dreadful than being told that you are going to die and then sitting in a prison cell just waiting for that moment,” he continued.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has recorded thousands of cases of families suffering because of the protracted trials and delayed executions. “Some families sell their assets to pay for litigation,” commmision spokesman Zaman Khan said. “But they get nothing after the decades of struggle.”
The commission advised the government to commute capital punishment cases to life imprisonment if the convict had spent 15 or more years in jail because of delays in the trials and executions, Khan said.
Pakistan’s slain former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, commuted the death sentences to life in prison for all prisoners as a one-time concession when she first came to power in 1989.
Source: Gulf News, August 1, 2015

8 more murder convicts hanged in Pakistan

July 29, 2015

8 more death row prisoners, who were convicted for murders, were sent to gallows in different prisons of Punjab on Wednesday.
According to Samaa correspondent, three murder convicts were hanged in district jail in Attock city early in the morning. A father and his son were among the 3 condemned prisoners.
Officials said 5 other death row convicts were executed in jails of Sargodha, Multan, Kasur, Jhang and Gujarat.
Authorities on Monday resumed executions following a one-month break during Ramazan.
Over 180 people have been executed since December when the country ended a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty following a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 150 people — mostly children — in the country’s deadliest ever terror attack.
Among those currently on death row are murder convict Shafqat Hussain who is scheduled to be hanged on Aug 4 in Karachi.
His case has drawn international criticism because his family and lawyers say he was under 18 at the time of the killing and claim he was tortured into confessing.
Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted their appeals.
Source:, July 29, 2015


Pakistan hangs three convicted killers

July 28, 2015: Three murder convicts were hanged in Pakistan between July 27 and 28 as executions resumed following a one-month break during the holy month of Ramazan that ended last week.
Farooq and Karim Nawaz, were hanged in Multan on July 27 amid strict security arrangements.
“Two prisoners, Farooq alias Farooqa and Karim Nawaz, who had been awarded capital punishment, have been hanged in central jail in Multan today,” Chaudhry Arshad Saeed, a senior government adviser for prisons in the Punjab province told AFP.
“Both of these convicts were awaiting the death penalty for murdering people in separate cases. They have been executed today after resumption of hangings following a temporary moratorium because of Ramazan,” he said.
Another senior official of the prisons department who is responsible for all operations confirmed the hangings.
In 1988, Farooq had murdered a person over a transaction whereas Kareem Nawaz had killed another in 1999 due to old enmity.
Akhtar were hanged on July 28 at Attock District Jail. He had killed a man named Saeed over an old enmity in 1999.
Since the de facto ban on capital punishment ended on 17 December 2014 184 people, including 25 convicted terrorists, have been executed across the country.
Sources: AFP, July 27, 2015; Dunya, July 28, 2015


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