PAKISTAN: CHILDREN ON DEATH ROW
January 17, 2012: Currently, there are five prisoners on death row of Mach Jail in Balochistan, Pakistan, and all of them were sentenced to death when they were children, announced Advocate Nadir Ali Khoso in a letter published in The Express Tribune on 17 January 2012.
The first is Mewal Shah. He is now 20 years old and was sentenced to death by the anti-terrorism court in Mastung. After four years in solitary confinement his sentence was commuted by the Balochistan High Court to 25 years rigorous imprisonment. He was 13 at the time he committed his offence.
The second, Sarfaraz, was 16 or 17 at the time when he is said to have committed a murder. He was sentenced to death in 2009 and his appeal is pending in the Balochistan High Court.
The third is Bhai Khan, son of Shah Mohammad Chandio. He is now 18 years of age but was a minor when he was sentenced to death by the district and sessions judge of Dera Allah Yar.
The fourth case involves Naseerullah who at the age of 17, is still a minor. He was sentenced to death in March 2010.
The last one is a prisoner by the name Zahoor Ahmed, son of Sajawal Jakhrani. He is 17 years old and was given the death sentence in March 2010 by the district and sessions judge of Dera Allah Yar.
What is shocking is that in all five cases, when the minors were being tried in the lower courts, their lawyers did not use the argument that they were juveniles and, hence, leniency should be exercised. Had their lawyers done so, perhaps most of them would not have been given the death penalty. The procedure in most cases is that if a lawyer pleads this point, then the court directs that the suspectâs age be determined medically. And if it is proved that the suspect is not an adult, then the case proceeds according to the procedures laid down in the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), which states in section 12: âno child shall be awarded punishment of death.â
The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, an Islamabad-based NGO has sent appeals regarding them, to both, the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court, hoping that the chief justices will act on them and provide justice to these convicts as laid down in the countryâs law for treating child offenders. (Sources: The Express Tribune, 17/01/2012)