LONDON – A young man arrested at the age of 14 and tortured into a ‘confession’ will be hanged next week in Karachi, Pakistan, according to a ‘Black Warrant’ setting his execution. His family has today been told to come for their final visit.
Shafqat Hussain was arrested in 2004 at the age of 14, and convicted of involuntary manslaughter. He was wrongly tried in one of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC), despite the alleged crime being unrelated to terrorism.
The evidence against Mr Hussain was a forced confession made after nine days of torture, including electrocution, brutal beatings, burning with cigarette butts, and solitary confinement. Mr Hussain has said that by the end of his ordeal, he would have told his captors “that a deer was an elephant.”
Mr Hussain’s family has today been told by jail authorities that they should prepare for a ‘final meeting’ with him. His mother, who has not seen him in ten years, must travel from far away Kashmir.
Executions have resumed in Pakistan in recent weeks, ending a six-year moratorium, as part of the government’s response to the mass school shooting that took place in December in Peshawar. The government has claimed it is executing only ‘terrorists’, but legal charity Reprieve and Justice Project Pakistan have found that the majority of those sentenced to death in the ATC, like Mr Hussain, were convicted on charges unrelated to terrorism.
Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, with 8,261 people currently awaiting execution.
Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “The fact that the Pakistani authorities are willing to execute a young man who, as a child, was tortured into a false ‘confession’ to a crime which bears no relation to terrorism shows the dangers of this rush to executions. The massacre in Peshawar was a tragedy, but hasty symbolic executions of potentially innocent people would be a grave stain on Pakistan’s justice system and do nothing to reduce the threat of terrorism. The government should change course urgently and stay the executions of Shafqat and others like him.”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.