Gallows in Pakistan (Image Reprieve)
A Pakistani court will tomorrow (8th) decide whether the government should be allowed to execute a severely mentally ill man.
At a hearing in Lahore, lawyers for Khizar Hayat – who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is detained in a hospital cell – will argue that his hanging would be illegal. In June this year, the courts halted an initial government plan to execute Khizar after seeing jail records documenting his severe mental illness. The documents include comments from doctors that Khizar – a former police officer sentenced to death for murder in 2003 – “is suffering from active symptoms of severe psychosis”.
The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, has condemned plans for Khizar’s execution.
The hearing comes days after the Lahore High Court ordered prison authorities to explain how they would go about hanging Abdul Basit, a prisoner who is paralyzed from the waist down, and who permanently uses a wheelchair. The Punjab Home Department, which oversees the jail, refused to provide the court with details of its plans. Pakistan’s jail manual gives no instructions for the hanging of disabled prisoners, and lawyers for Basit believe that his hanging would constitute cruel and unusual punishment – violating the fundamental right to human dignity enshrined in Pakistan’s Constitution. The Court has yet to issue its judgment.
Pakistan’s 8,500-strong death row is the largest in the world, and the government has hanged over 220 prisoners since resuming executions in December 2014. The authorities’ claims to be targeting only ‘terrorists’ has been repeatedly called into question, most recently by a Reuters investigation which found that the vast majority of those already killed had no links to terrorism.
Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, Deputy Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said: “Khizar Hayat is a severely mentally ill man – so much so that he is being held in a hospital cell. It is outrageous that the authorities are trying to rush through his execution, along with so many others. It’s abundantly clear that this wave of executions has little to do with combatting terrorism, and will do nothing to make Pakistan more secure. The government must recognise this, and stop these killings.”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.