Pakistan should immediately halt carrying out the death penalty, said the ICJ today after two people were executed in the wake of the horrific attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 149 people, nearly all of them children.
“Rather than lifting the moratorium on the death penalty and executing people on death row, the Pakistani government should do all it can to bring to justice those responsible for the slaughter of innocents in Peshawar, in accordance with international law,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia director. “These executions are a poorly thought out response to public demands for revenge – they do nothing to prevent future attacks or ensure justice for the victims.”
On 17 December 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted a six-year unofficial moratorium on executions in response to the attack by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban on 16 December on a school in Peshawar, killing 149 people, almost all of them children.
And on 19 December, Pakistan executed Aqeel alias Dr Usman, a former soldier in the army’s medical corps, who was convicted for involvement in an attack on the Pakistan Army General Headquarters in 2009, and Arshad Mehmood, who was convicted in connection with an assassination attempt on General Pervez Musharraf in 2003.
Hundreds of people convicted under Pakistan’s over-broad and widely abused counter-terrorism laws are at risk of imminent execution.
On 18 December, President Mamnoon Hussain rejected the mercy petitions of 17 people on death row who stand convicted of terrorism-related charges.
Additionally, according to media reports, the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, has also given approval for the execution of six individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences by military courts.
“The attack on the school in Peshawar was horrific and brutal, and Pakistan must ensure that such attacks are prevented in future by implementing a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy in line with the Pakistani Constitution and its obligations under international human rights law,” Zarifi added. “Executing all those convicted under Pakistan’s flawed counter-terrorism laws, following trials that fell short of international standards of fairness, dodges the real issues confronting Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.”
Pakistan’s government should restore its moratorium on the death penalty and instead focus on an effective, realistic, and legal response to the very real threat posed by armed groups to the Pakistani people, the ICJ says.
Pakistan resumed executions a day after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, for the fifth time since 2007, emphasizing that that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity and calling on those countries that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use with a view to its abolition.
An overwhelming majority of 117 UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.
ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception. The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Reema Omer, ICJ International Legal Advisor for South Asia (London), t: +447889565691; email: reema.omer(a)icj.org