Mentally ill ex-policeman must be spared hanging in Pakistan, say lawyers

January 11, 2017

A Pakistani court will tomorrow (12th) decide whether to halt the execution of a severely mentally ill man.

At a hearing in Lahore, lawyers for Khizar Hayat – a former policeman who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and is detained in isolation in a prison hospital ward – will argue that his hanging would be illegal.

Mr Hayat’s execution is set for 17th January, even though proceedings in his case are still pending before the Lahore High Court.

In 2015, the courts halted an initial government plan to execute Mr Hayat after seeing jail records documenting his severe mental illness.

The documents include comments from doctors that Mr Hayat “is suffering from active symptoms of severe psychosis”.

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law.

Four UN Special Rapporteurs have recently criticised Pakistan’s plans to hang another severely mentally ill man, Imdad Ali, after the Supreme Court controversially claimed that schizophrenia was ‘not a mental illness’.

Concerns have also been raised over wrongful executions in Pakistan, after two brothers, Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir, who had already been hanged were found to be innocent by the Supreme Court. As in Mr Hayat’s case, a warrant was issued for their execution by the lower courts, despite the pending proceedings in a higher.

Pakistan’s 8,000-strong death row is the largest in the world, and the government has hanged over 421 prisoners since resuming executions in December 2014.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said:

“Like Imdad Ali, Khizar Hayat suffers from severe mental illness. It is outrageous that the authorities are trying to rush through his hanging while Imdad’s case is still pending a decision from the Supreme Court and while Khizar’s case is still under consideration by the High Court itself. The issuance of a warrant while proceedings were still pending in another case has already lead to two innocent men going to the gallows. Now Pakistan risks carrying out another wrongful execution of a severely mentally ill prisoner. The court tomorrow must stay Khizar’s execution. Pakistan’s death penalty system is broken, and the government should halt executions or risk grave and irreparable injustices being carried out in its name.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org