Pakistan’s Supreme Court has refused to grant a stay of execution to a paraplegic man set to be hanged tomorrow (Tuesday), despite fears that hanging someone from their wheelchair may breach the country’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
At a hearing today at Pakistan’s Supreme Court, the court refused to order a stay of execution for Abdul Basit, 43, who is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair. The court has ordered that the hanging must comply with the Pakistan Prison Rules. However, because the procedures set out in those rules only provide for prisoners who are able to stand, any attempt to hang Basit could see him either facing decapitation or prolonged strangulation.
According to Basit’s lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan, the judges today ignored the inadequacy of the prison guidelines, with one judge remarking that Pakistan’s courts “cannot oversee every execution,” and claiming that there is no way for the Supreme Court to know how many executions have not been carried out in the prescribed manner. Justice Dost Mohammed Khan told the court that he was aware of at least one botched hanging that had already taken place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in which a miscalculation of the prisoner’s weight caused the rope to break. He said that the man subsequently received treatment and was hanged again within 24 hours.
Basit has been paralyzed since he contracted meningitis while in prison, which was not properly treated. The Supreme Court failed to take issue with the Lahore High Court’s position that international law should not be taken into account in his case.
Yesterday, Basit’s mother publicly begged the Pakistani Government to stop the hanging, saying “Who says that this is justice? How can they do this to a paralyzed man? Please have mercy on my son.”
The Presidency is capable of halting the execution, but has yet to respond to a mercy petition filed by Basit’s lawyers.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at human rights organization Reprieve, said:
“The court has set the prison an impossible task – there is no way of hanging Basit according to the rules, leaving the real risk that he will face a needlessly cruel and horrific execution. This would be in direct violation of Pakistan’s domestic and international commitments, and show that its claims to be living up to human rights standards are false. If international law is to have any meaning, the international community must stand up against this outrage and call on the President of Pakistan to halt the execution of Abdul Basit without delay.”
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”.