Amnesty International and other international human rights organisation’s all term the death penalty as a denial of human dignity. 139 countries have abolished death penalty. Of the 58 countries, retaining the death penalty, 18 were known to have carried out the last executions in 2009 (China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US top the league) while Pakistan has not executed any criminal since 2008 and Brundi, Togo and the US state of New Mexico have abolished death penalty in their law and practice in 2010-11. Despite a marked trend towards abolition and restriction of the use of capital punishment in most countries, the numbers and manner of death penalty applications worldwide remain alarming.

International human rights organisations are working to achieve universal abolition of death penalty. While 139 countries, more than two thirds of the countries of the world, are abolitionist in law or practice, still at least 8,679 executions were carried out in the last two years.

This makes abolitionist initiatives more important. UNO is also playing a pivotal role to abolish death penalty. However, while numbers of death penalty application around the world are decreasing, they remain too high where capital punishment remains in force. There are serious problems with regard to the respect of international norms and standards, notably in the limitation of the death penalty to the most serious crimes, the exclusion of juvenile offenders from its scope, and guarantee of a fair trial.

In countries like Pakistan where justice is delayed and the influential elite try to overshadow the justice system by unfair methods, things are worse.

In statute laws of Pakistan there are 32 different crimes for which the death penalty is awarded, though at the time of creation of Pakistan capital punishment was specified for only two crimes, which means 30 more categories have been included. The death penalty in Islam is not for more than two or three crimes.

The current democratic government of Pakistan has been trying to make some initiatives to abolish this punishment. Death sentence causes psychological trauma and many death row inmates suffer mentally. Our justice system in the lower courts is unfair to people, many are there who have no proven crimes locked up with hardened criminals for years; they find it hard to get justice. This law seems inhumane and needs to be abolished in practice and word by the government as quickly as possible.

DR SAIFUR REHMAN,

Islamabad, October 21.