Renew Death Penalty Moratorium, Then Abolish Capital Punishment
August 16, 2013
After a five-year unofficial moratorium on executions, Pakistan’s new government has said it intends to resume the heinous practice of sending people to the gallows. The government should instead declare an official moratorium, commute all existing death sentences, and then abolish the death penalty once and for all.
Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director

(New York) – Pakistan’s government should revoke its decision to resume executions and renew its moratorium on the death penalty, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists said in a joint letter to the Pakistani government today.

“After a five-year unofficial moratorium on executions, Pakistan’s new government has said it intends to resume the heinous practice of sending people to the gallows,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should instead declare an official moratorium, commute all existing death sentences, and then abolish the death penalty once and for all.”

The International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch urged the Pakistani government to demonstrate its commitment to international human rights obligations by halting all executions, immediately adopting a moratorium on the death penalty, and abolishing the death penalty permanently in domestic law. Pakistan should also ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.

“A return to executions will derail one of democratic Pakistan’s most tangible human rights successes,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director of the International Commission of Jurists. “Under military rule, Pakistan endured the widespread application of the death penalty. The new government should demonstrate its clear opposition to any use of this ghastly punishment.”  

Pakistan has had a moratorium on the death penalty since June 2008, with only the execution of Muhammad Hussain in November 2012 following a court martial.
A counterterrorism court in Sindh province has issued “black warrants” for the execution of two members of the banned sectarian and militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Attaullah alias Qasim and Muhammad Azam alias Sharif. The two men were convicted by a counterterrorism court in July 2004 for the killing of a Shia doctor. They are scheduled to be executed between August 20 and 22, 2013.

“It is absolutely essential that militants who threaten and kill people be held accountable for their crimes,” Hasan said. “However, terrorism won’t be stopped by hangings but by rights-respecting counterterrorism measures and fair prosecutions.”

According to official figures, Pakistan has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.   
Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment. A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice. On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution by a wide margin calling for a worldwide moratorium.

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