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conceptual mapping >  basic human rights and societies  > Slow march to the gallows. Death penalty in Pakistan

Fédération Internationale des liguues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)

Slow march to the gallows. Death penalty in Pakistan

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In early 2006, the HRCP and the FIDH jointly organised a factfinding mission on the application of death penalty in Pakistan.

Pakistan ranks among the countries in the world which issue the most death sentences : currently, over 7,400 prisoners are lingering on death row. In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a significant increase in charges carrying capital punishment, in convictions to death, as well as in executions. The HRCP and the FIDH find that the application of death penalty in Pakistan falls far below international standards. In particular, they find that, given the very serious defects of the law itself, of the administration of justice, of the police service, the chronic corruption and the cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities, capital punishment in Pakistan is discriminatory and unjust, and allows for a high probability of miscarriages of justice, which is wholly unacceptable in any civilised society, but even more so when the punishment is irreversible. At every step, from arrest to trial to execution, the safeguards against miscarriage of justice are weak or non-existent, and the possibility that innocents have been or will be executed remains frighteningly high.

The HRCP and FIDH note that not only has the massive application of death penalty not strengthened the rule of law, but its application has, much on the contrary, weakened it substantially. This affects all citizens of the country, but even more so those who face a judicial procedure. The lack of consistency of Pakistani courts and the historical weakness of the judiciary, submissive to the executive as well as plagued with systemic corruption, gravely jeopardises the possibility of a fair trial. Furthermore, the very low salaries of the judges exposes them to pressure and bias - both in « political » cases, or in cases where one of the parties is wealthy. The by now routine habit of the executive « rewarding » or « punishing » compliant or resistant judges has seriously undermined the independence of the judiciary.

document de référence rédigé le : 1 January 2007

date of on-line publication : 2 March 2007

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