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Abolish death penalty, Pak rights body asks govt

October 10, 2011 12:37 IST

Pakistan's top human rights body has asked the government to fulfill its commitment made three years ago to abolish the death penalty and demanded that an informal moratorium on executions should immediately be made formal.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reiterated its opposition to the death penalty on World Day against Death Penalty, which is observed on October 10 and said it believed that "this punishment allows for a very high probability of miscarriage of justice on account of critical deficiencies in the law, police investigation, chronic corruption and "cultural prejudices affecting women and religious minorities" in Pakistan.

"This is unacceptable in any civilised society, particularly so when the punishment is irreversible," it said in a statement.

Welcoming the government's persistence with the stay on executions since December 2008, the HRCP expressed concern that capital punishment remains on statute books for over two dozen offences and the courts continue to award the death sentence "more or less on the pre-moratorium scale".

"The moratorium also remains both informal and incremental, lapsing every few months," the statement said.

The HRCP noted with dismay that no concrete steps had been taken to realise the government's commitment of 2008 to end the death penalty for all but the most serious offences.

"The high incidence of crime in the country despite Pakistan being among countries with one of the highest rate of conviction to capital punishment in the world demonstrates that capital punishment has no special deterrent effect," the HRCP contended.

"HRCP calls upon the government to consistently publicise its reasons for putting in place the moratorium on executions, take effective measures to address the objectives of the people who oppose the abolition of the death penalty and mobilise public support for its abolitionist policy through a sustained awareness campaign," it added.

The Commission reiterated its demand that the government "must take urgent steps to remove the impression that the death penalty in the litany of offences on the statute books is sanctioned by Islam as it has already been held by the Council of Islamic Ideology that Islamic law mandates capital punishment only for a couple of offences"

It called on the government to take "definite steps towards abolition of capital punishment".

As a first step, the informal stay on executions should be made formal and the number of offences that carry the death penalty should be reduced, the statement said.

The Commission further urged the government to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is aimed at the abolition of the death penalty.

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