[JURIST] Pakistani authorities have postponed the execution of an inmate convicted as a minor, a decision welcomed [press release] Friday by a group of independent UN human rights experts. Authorities are conducting an investigation into the age of Shafqat Hussain, who may have been as young as 14 when he was sentenced to death after being convicted of kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter in 2004. His death sentence was originally postponed [Al Jazeera report] in January when authorities first called for an investigation into his age at the time of his conviction, but the sentence was reinstated earlier this month. Hussain allegedly confessed to the crimes after being tortured by authorities for nine days. UN experts are urging Pakistan to definitively halt the execution and investigate the cases of all minors on death row. According to the experts, Pakistan is bound by the Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture to refrain from executing anyone who was a minor when their alleged crimes were committed. Pakistan lifted its death penalty moratorium in December and has since executed 48 people. The UN estimates that several hundred of the 8,000 inmates on Pakistan’s death row are minors.
Pakistan’s use of the death penalty since December has received a lot criticism throughout the world. When the six-year death penalty moratorium was lifted [JURIST report] last December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [official profile] said the death penalty would only be applied to terrorism-related cases. However, earlier this month the Pakistan Ministry of Interior lifted the country’s moratorium on the death penalty, permitting hangings for all prisoners [JURIST report] who have exhausted all possible appeals. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called on Pakistan in January to end the increase in executions following the Peshwar school attack, and in February the rights group said that use of the death penalty in Pakistan is undergoing a “disturbing and dangerous” [JURIST reports] escalation after the execution of two men convicted of non-terrorism offenses. A judge in Pakistan’s Lahore District and Sessions Court [official website] on Friday sentenced [JURIST report] an offender to death for blasphemy. Additionally, last week Pakistani authorities hanged 12 men [JURIST report] on Tuesday, the largest number of people executed in a single day since the moratorium was lifted.