One in four Pakistani convicts faces execution: rights group

June 17th, 2008 - 7:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, June 17 (DPA) Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday that nearly one in every four convicts in Pakistan is on death row, and urged the government to ban the death penalty. “Out of the more than 31,400 convicts in the country, nearly a quarter - more than 7,000 individuals, including some 40 women - have been sentenced to death, and are either involved in lengthy appeals processes or awaiting execution,” said the New York-based group in a letter to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

Most of those sentenced to death were poor and illiterate and many were held without due process of law and faced trials that did not meet international fair trial standards.

“The number of persons sentenced to death and executed every year in Pakistan is among the highest in the world,” said Brad Adams, group’s Asia director. In 2007, a total of 309 prisoners were sentenced to death and 134 were hanged.

According to HRW, police torture to obtain confessions was endemic in Pakistan and could lead to wrongful convictions and the execution of innocent people.

It also alleged that capital punishment was used in some cases to settle political scores.

“There are serious weaknesses in the legal system that lead to unjust executions,” said Adams.

He urged the government to put a moratorium on death sentences and executions until reforms are made to the legal system to ensure that fair trial standards were met.

The rights advocate called upon Islamabad to inform the UN General Assembly in September when it reopens its debate on the death penalty that it had put an end to this punishment of “an inherently cruel, inhuman and final nature”.

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