Execution of mentally ill prisoners ‘inappropriate’, says Pakistan’s Supreme Court
November 16, 2016
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has indicated that the Government cannot execute mentally ill death-row prisoners such as Imdad Ali, who suffers from schizophrenia.
At a hearing this morning, judges said that if Imdad Ali, who suffers from schizophrenia, can be proven to have been mentally ill at the time of his trial in 2001 then he must not be executed. They added that while Mr Ali remains mentally unfit, it would be “inappropriate” to hang him.
Mr Ali, 50, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jail medical records presented at the Supreme Court hearing show that Imdad has been treated for mental illness for many years, and that a 2013 medical report concluded that he is “insane.” More recent medical reports, from September and October this year, have confirmed his illness, and a psychiatrist at his prison has deemed him “a treatment-resistant case.”
Sentenced to death in 2002 over a shooting, Mr Ali has spent 14 years on Pakistan’s death row, including 3 years in the jail hospital in solitary confinement. The execution of mentally ill people is illegal under Pakistani and international law. However, despite Mr Ali’s illness, the Pakistani authorities have been seeking to carry out his execution since last month, when a warrant for his hanging was handed down.
At a hearing on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered that a medical board be set up to determine whether Mr Ali is mentally ill.
Pakistan has hanged an estimated 418 people since resuming executions in December 2014, including juveniles, prisoners who were tortured into ‘confessions’, and others who have subsequently been found to have been innocent. The country’s compliance with its international human rights obligations will be reviewed as early as next year by the UN Human Rights Council and UN treaty monitoring bodies.
Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:
“It’s welcome to hear Pakistan’s Supreme Court affirming that the Government cannot execute mentally ill prisoners. There is already abundant evidence that Imdad Ali is severely mentally ill – his hanging would be a serious breach of Pakistani and international law. The Pakistani authorities must urgently heed these warnings, and commute Imdad’s death sentence before it’s too late.”
Notes to Editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk, or +44 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org
2. More information about Imdad Ali’s case can be seen at the Reprieve website.