Pakistan Supreme Court orders mental health evaluation of death row man

November 14, 2016

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has today ordered doctors to examine Imdad Ali, a death row inmate who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Pakistan recently tried to hang Mr Ali despite having signed international treaties banning the execution of mentally ill prisoners.

Although several doctors have already diagnosed Mr Ali with schizophrenia, judges ruled that a five strong panel of psychologists and psychiatrists must carry out a new mental health assessment of Imdad Ali.

Punjab’s Advocate General appeared in person at the Court today and said that they had uncovered Mr Ali’s prison medical records from 2001. However, the Supreme Court refused to look at the government’s own records, saying that prison medical history ‘means nothing’.

Judges asked Mr Ali’s lawyers to provide the Court with a list of competent doctors to conduct a fresh assessment.

The move comes as the Supreme Court reviewed its previous controversial finding in Mr Ali’s case where it had said that schizophrenia was ‘not a mental illness’.

Mr Ali was sentenced to death in 2001 over a shooting and has spent 14 years on death row, with three years in solitary confinement in the jail hospital due to his schizophrenia. A 2013 medical report stated him to be “insane.”

His most recent medical reports in September and October 2016 found him to be suffering from active psychotic symptoms. A psychiatrist at the prison has deemed him “a treatment-resistant case.”

The case continues on Wednesday 16 November.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s apparent acceptance that executing mentally ill prisoners would breach Pakistan’s commitments under international law. Although further delays are concerning given the amount of evidence showing Imdad Ali is mentally ill, we hope the next hearing will see Imdad’s schizophrenia recognized by the court – and his death sentence commuted once and for all.”

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

2. More information about Mr Ali’s case can be seen at the Reprieve website