(New York) – The Pakistani government should grant an immediate reprieve to death row prisoner Khizar Hayat because of his psychosocial disability, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 23, 2015, a court in Lahore scheduled Hayat’s execution for July 28.
Putting to death an individual with psychosocial or other mental disabilities would violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said.
“Executing people with mental health conditions is a barbarous affront to decency and serves no criminal justice purpose,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s a victory of vengeance over respect for the rights of all people.”
Police arrested Hayat, a former policeman, in 2001 for allegedly killing a colleague. A court sentenced Hayat to death in 2003. Prison doctors later diagnosed Hayat with paranoid schizophrenia in 2008 and prison officials have dispensed him antipsychotic medication ever since. According to his lawyers, by 2012 Hayat had become so delusional that prison authorities isolated him from the general prison population by moving him to the prison hospital, where he has spent the last three years. The human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan called for a reprieve for Hayat in a background brief because of his psychosocial disability.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee and UN special experts have determined that the execution of a person with a psychosocial disability would be in violation of the right to be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. The UN Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions in 1999 and 2000 urging countries that retain the death penalty not to impose it “on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder.” Pakistan is also a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which affirms fundamental protections for people with psychosocial disabilities.
Hayat’s scheduled execution would also mark the end of the one-month pause in executions implemented by the Pakistani government during the holy month of Ramadan. Pakistan’s government has executed 176 death row prisoners since December 2014. On April 21, 2015, the government executed its highest number of people in single day by executing at least 15 people that day. Those executions are part of a state response to the horrific December 16, 2014 attack by the Pakistani Taliban splinter group Tehreek-e-Taliban on a school in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan that left at least 148 dead – almost all of them children.
“Pakistan’s president should immediately commute Khizar Hayat’s execution and prevent a ghastly infringement of basic rights,” Kine said. “The Pakistani government should take this opportunity to reaffirm its human rights commitments and explicitly reject the odious practice of executing people with psychosocial disabilities.”