UN experts urge Pakistan to strengthen protection of children after latest execution

By | 6 August 2015

Pakistan, 5 August 2015 – United Nations human rights experts today condemned the execution in Pakistan of Shafqat Hussein, who was reportedly 14 years old when he was convicted of murder, and called on the country to strengthen the protection of children.

Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

Photo: UN/MINUSTAH/Logan Abassi

The execution of Shafqat Hussein is regrettable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations,” stated the Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, in a news release.

According to media reports, the lawyers for Mr. Hussain, convicted of killing a child in 2004, say he was 14 when found guilty and his confession was extracted by torture. However, Pakistani officials say there is no proof he was a minor when convicted.

The jurisprudence of the Committee on the Rights of the Child states that: “[if] there is no proof of age, the child is entitled to a reliable medical or social investigation that may establish his/her age and, in the case of conflict or inconclusive evidence, the child shall have the right to the rule of the benefit of the doubt.”

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Pakistan has ratified, are clear, as is Pakistani law: the death sentence should not be imposed on a defendant who was under 18 at the time of the crime,” said Mr. Mezmur.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, said the execution is “deeply saddening and goes against Pakistan’s commitments to children’s rights.”

Pakistan, she recalled, was one of the main supporters of the World Summit for Children in 1990, and was amongst the first States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“It is deplorable that Shafqat Hussein was executed following a trial that reportedly did not comply with the most stringent requirements of due process and that there was not a proper investigation into allegations he confessed under torture,” both she and Mr. Mezmur stated.

They urged the Pakistani authorities to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty, conduct rigorous investigations into reported cases of children on death row, and adults on death row for offences committed while below the age of 18, and ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into all alleged acts of torture.

“We stand ready to support Pakistan in its efforts to strengthen the protection of the rights of the child across its justice system,” they said in the statement, which was also endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.