UN child rights committee and UN Special Representative on Violence against Children condemn Shafqat Hussein execution
Geneva/New York, 5 August 2015 – The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children have condemned the execution in Pakistan of Shafqat Hussein, who was reportedly 14 years old when he was convicted of murder.
“The execution of Shafqat Hussein is regrettable and in flagrant contravention of Pakistan’s national and international obligations,” said Committee Chair Benyam Dawit Mezmur.
“This execution is deeply saddening and goes against Pakistan’s commitments to children’s rights. Pakistan 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,” said Special Representative Marta Santos Pais.
“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.
“This prohibition is binding regardless of a young person’s subsequent age at the time of the trial, or sentencing or of the carrying out of the sanction,” Ms. Santos Pais added.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child’s jurisprudence 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”.
“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. It is also regrettable that the recommendations made in July 2015 by the Sindh Human Rights Commission that the case be re-opened and all relevant evidence be properly considered were not taken into account,” the Committee and the Special Representative said.
“While voicing our deep regret at Shafqat Hussein’s execution, we once again urge 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,” Mr. Mezmur and Ms. Santos Pais said.
“We stand ready to support Pakistan in its efforts to strengthen the protection of the rights of the child across its justice system,” they concluded.
Their statement is endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.
*Convention on the Rights of the Child – Article 37 (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Article 6: 5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.