Pakistan brings back death penalty, to anger of rights groups

ISLAMABAD Fri Jul 5, 2013 6:22am EDT

Policemen are seen silhouetted at the entrance of the Sargodha jail in Punjab province on June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Policemen are seen silhouetted at the entrance of the Sargodha jail in Punjab province on June 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Faisal Mahmood

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's new government, trying to appear determined to rein in escalating crime and militancy, has ended a ban on the death penalty, in a move condemned by international organizations as inhuman and retrograde.

Up to 8,000 people languish on death row in dozens of Pakistan's notoriously overcrowded and violent jails.

Once a moratorium is in place, reinstatement of capital punishment is rare, with more than 150 countries having already either abolished the death penalty or stopped administering it.

A 2008 moratorium imposed by Pakistan's previous government, praised at the time by global rights groups, expired on June 30.

"The present government does not plan to extend it," said Omar Hamid Khan, an interior ministry spokesman.

Pakistan's president must approve all executions. The government puts the number of people on death row at about 400. The method of execution is usually hanging.

"Pakistan is part of a dwindling minority of States who continue to retain the death penalty and carry out executions," the International Crisis Group said.

"The prospect of lifting the moratorium is all the more alarming given the extraordinarily high number of people on death row."

Khan said the new policy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government was to execute all death row prisoners, except those pardoned on humanitarian grounds.

There is, however, no firm evidence showing the practice can serve as a deterrent to crime or extremism, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.

"As long as the death penalty is in place, the risk of executing innocent people can never be eliminated," rights group Amnesty International said.

Pakistan says capital punishment is key to deterring crime in places such as Karachi, a megacity of 18 million plagued by violence, as well as in the areas on its border with Afghanistan where Taliban militants launch daily attacks.

Papua New Guinea, one of the world's poorest and most corrupt countries, reinstated the death penalty in May and repealed its sorcery laws after a string of gruesome "witch" killings and gang-rapes.

Asked about Amnesty's criticism, Khan pointed to the fact that capital punishment was still in use in parts of the United States, a nation he said was home to the "best judicial system".

Pakistan's moratorium drew praise because of concerns its courts and police were too inept to ensure the accused a fair trial. Pakistan did, however, break its own rules in 2012, when it executed a convicted murderer and a former army serviceman.

The previous government of the Pakistan's Peoples Party, whose former chairman, Benazir Bhutto, was a fierce opponent of capital punishment, enforced the moratorium soon after taking power in 2008 under President Asif Ali Zardari.

Zardari, the widower of Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, is due to step down later this year.

(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (5)
anotherview wrote:
A complete justice system requires the death penalty for the worst crimes. Hence, the straw man of inadequate deterrence from the existence of the death penalty has little standing here. The death penalty serves justice, and any deterrence may follow as a side benefit to this act of due justice. The lack of perfection from the possibility of executing an innocent person where the death penalty exists cannot reasonably support banning the death penalty. Human endeavor inherently lacks perfection. So to invoke, by inference, the necessity of perfection in the use of the death penalty as a condition of its use presents an automatic impossibility, and thus an unreasonable condition. That said, the use of the death penalty must occur humanely in the sense of minimizing if not eliminating the immediate agony of dying from execution. A proper hanging terminates consciousness in milliseconds, and brings certain death via the consequences of instantly breaking the neck. The injection of powerful drugs completely numbs the condemned and quickly renders him unconscious before death occurs shortly thereafter. The death penalty justifies itself by serving justice to the condemned, and providing a measure of retribution for satisfying victims and society. The removal of the death penalty equates to a mockery of a justice system for its inadequacy to address the worst crimes by use of the death penalty. Other entities adversely affected by the criminal actions involved never receive the profound mental relief of retribution for crime against them. The death penalty suffices for legitimate societal purposes.

Jul 05, 2013 11:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
xyz2055 wrote:
“There is, however, no firm evidence showing the practice can serve as a deterrent to crime or extremism, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.”

Absolutely NOT true. If you execute a murderer, that person will Absolutely never murder again. The practice is 100% effective.

Jul 05, 2013 3:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
onlyif wrote:
@xyz2055 – Logic some NGOs can’t deny.

“condemned by international organizations as inhuman and retrograde.” – why must the world endure these un-elected, nosy, Utopian, lets all hold hugs and wish for world peace and an end to violence people…

Jul 05, 2013 8:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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