PR LAHORE - Justice Project Pakistan jointly held a screening at SAFMA of Pakistan’s first-ever review under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) before the UN Human Rights Committee taking place at the Palais de Wilson, Geneva.

Pakistan said that “the death penalty is being imposed after due process and in the case of most serious crimes only.” It has also emphasised that the “death penalty cannot be imposed on an individual below the age of 18.”

Yadh Ben Achour, a member of the committee, specifically questioned Pakistan on its use of the death penalty. “Will the moratorium be re-established?” he asked. He clarified that although Pakistan justifies its use of the death penalty because of the APS attack in Peshawar, the death penalty is applicable to those committing other 27 death-eligible crimes, many of which are not fatal. He stated that all Muslim countries are dealing with terrorism and Pakistan is not an exception. “Nevertheless it must abide by minimum standards.”

As highlighted in JPP’s recent report, Counting Executions, the committee stated that only a small fraction of executions carried out were for terrorism. “Pakistan has the right to defend itself against terrorism, but [it] need[s] to apply the death penalty with prudence,” he said.

The committee specifically mentioned that Pakistan must limit its application of the death penalty by ensuring that the death penalty, remains fully exceptional, is reserved for only the most serious crimes, and is not used to execute minors under the age of 18.

While Kamran Michael stated that there is some flexibility in the interpretation of the “most serious crimes,” the committee reiterated that Pakistan has “gone over the limit” by issuing death sentences to those convicted of drug trafficking, having sexual relationships outside of marriage, or blasphemy.

The UN Committee stated that the ICCPR must be better implemented in Pakistan, and recommended that judges should be trained. It recalled the case of Abdul Basit, a paraplegic death-row inmate, the judgment for whom by the Lahore High Court called for international law to be set aside.

The UN committee highlighted the use of violence by state authorities, and what was being done to prevent and outlaw it.

The UN committee questioned Pakistan about why the Chairman of the NCHR was not allowed to attend, and why it had been put under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Rights. The NCHR chairman was not allowed to attend the UN Convention Against Torture review either, and was not allowed to submit a report. The committee indicated that perhaps the NCHR’s mandate “needs to be tweaked.”