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For immediate release: Sun Aug 16, 2015
Hearing tomorrow to decide fate of paraplegic Pakistani death-row prisoner
A hearing tomorrow (Monday 17 August) will decide whether the Pakistani authorities should be able to hang a paralysed death-row prisoner.
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’ was issued last month setting Basit’s execution on 29 July 2015. A stay of execution, obtained three weeks ago by Basit’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), has prevented his execution until now. Monday’s hearing at the Lahore High Court will decide whether the stay should expire, and Basit be hanged.
In a mercy petition submitted to the President of Pakistan, Basit’s lawyers have argued that the Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 – the statute regulating executions – does not provide procedures for the hanging of a disabled prisoner and that the execution would amount to cruel and unusual punishment in breach of Pakistani and international law.
Over 200 prisoners have been hanged in Pakistan since the government resumed executions in December 2014. Recent reports have suggested that the vast majority of those prisoners to have faced the gallows have not been associated with terrorism, contradicting claims by the Pakistani government to be targeting ‘terrorists’. Those killed have included people suffering from mental illness, juveniles, and many who may have been innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted.
Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “The decision to go ahead with the hanging of a severely disabled man would mark a new low for the Pakistani justice system. 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.” [emphasis added]