PAKISTAN COURT DELAYS PARAPLEGIC'S EXECUTION
September 22, 2015: A Pakistan court has postponed the execution of a paraplegic prisoner, after human rights groups voiced concerns that his hanging would constitute "cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."
Abdul Basit, who is paralyzed from the waist down, was scheduled to be hanged Tuesday (September 22).
"Faisalabad Central Jail authorities have postponed the hanging after Lahore High Court granted a stay on Basit's hanging earlier today," a police official said.
Basit's lawyer Wassam Waheed confirmed the last minute stay of execution.
"The prison officials as well as the judicial officer and the MO entrusted to carry out the execution all felt that the execution not be carried out without violating the prison rules," Waheed said. "In this light, the judicial magistrate passed an order (staying the execution) in order to provide time to the prison authorities to get guidance from the Punjab government on this matter."
Human rights groups said that his condition, which makes him unable to stand, might lead to the possibility of a botched hanging, and would violate fundamental rights under Pakistan's constitution and international law.
The Pakistani statute regulating executions specifies the length of the rope to be measured from "the lower jaw of the condemned prisoner as he stands on the scaffold."
A rope that is too long risks subjecting the prisoner to protracted strangulation. Too short and the prisoner is at risk of decapitation.
According to Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a Lahore-based organization that provides pro-bono legal representation to prisoners, Basit contracted tubercular meningitis while in the central Faisalabad prison back in July 2010, leading to his paralyzation.
"Other than that, he suffers from spinal cord atrophy and loss of sphincter control," JPP said.
Second stay of execution
Basit, a former medical college administrator, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2009, although he has always maintained his innocence.
It is the second time his execution has been postponed. He was sentenced to be hanged on July 29 but the courts accepted his petition the day before, staying the capital punishment. But on September 1, the Lahore High Court dismissed his petition.
On Sunday (September 20), Human Rights Watch released a statement calling for the Pakistan government to commute Basit's sentence saying it underscored the "inherent cruelty of capital punishment by the execution of a person with a severe disability."
"Rather than confronting the inherent cruelty of capital punishment, Pakistani officials are puzzling over how to hang a man in a wheelchair," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The government should urgently commute Abdul Basit's sentence." (Sources: CNN, September 22, 2015)