Pakistan: two executions today are 'a dangerous and disturbing' escalation in use of the death penalty

Pakistani troops keep watch on the outskirts of Lahore following a government announcement that it would conduct mass hangings © AFP/Getty Images
‘The government has apparently gone against its own stated policy of only executing those convicted on terrorism charges’ - David Griffiths
 
The execution of two men convicted of non-terrorism-related offences marks a disturbing and dangerous escalation in Pakistan’s use of the death penalty since a moratorium was lifted in December, Amnesty International said today. 
 
Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Fiaz were hanged this morning in Mirpur Central Prison in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir region. The two men were convicted of murdering the son of the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association in 2004, and given death sentences in 2005. The two men received an unfair trial and their appeal before the Supreme Court was dismissed in 2006 on technical grounds as no lawyer was willing to represent the men for fear of being disbarred or of suffering a backlash from the Supreme Court Bar Association. 
 
Pakistan lifted a moratorium on executions on 17 December - in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre - on prisoners convicted of “terrorism” offences in Anti-Terror Courts. However, today’s hangings mark the first executions of prisoners convicted by ordinary courts. 
 
Amnesty International Asia Pacific Deputy Director David Griffiths said:
 
“Today’s executions mark a disturbing and dangerous escalation of Pakistan’s use of the death penalty since a moratorium was lifted. The government has apparently gone against its own stated policy of only executing those convicted on terrorism charges.
 
“Twenty-four people have now been put to death by the government since December. This spate of killings must end immediately - the government should re-impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition. Pakistan has one of the world’s largest death row populations, and more than 8,000 people’s lives are at risk.
 
“Pakistan’s judicial system is seriously flawed. Frequent use of torture to extract ‘confessions’, a lack of access to legal counsel, and long periods of detention without charge are just some of our concerns. The death penalty is always a human rights violation, but the serious fair trial concerns in Pakistan make its use even more troubling.”
 
Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. 
 

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