Pakistan has executed no death row convict in the past 22 months, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said on Thursday, while appreciating its top court’s decision to prohibit meting out the capital punishment to prisoners who were severely mentally ill.
She was speaking at an event hosted jointly by the EU delegation and Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) to commemorate the upcoming World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10.
She reminded that Pakistan had signed the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010 – well before the existence on GSP+. The ICCPR calls for the death penalty only to be applied to the “most serious crimes”. However, Pakistan currently has 33 crimes that can lead to a death penalty.
“This year’s global theme is ‘women and the death penalty’, which focuses on inequalities within the justice system and how this disproportionately affects women as they engage with courts and law enforcement authorities,” she noted.
“This makes access to justice much more difficult for women. While working towards the complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes and genders, it is crucial to sound the alarm on the discrimination women face and the consequences it can have on a death sentence.”
At the event, the JPP launched their latest campaign, titled ‘This Is (Not) A Game’, highlighting systemic issues in the criminal justice system, with a particular focus on the struggles of women who have to engage with the system and the difficulties they face in terms of access to justice.
The components of the ‘This Is (Not) A Game’ campaign include a digital game, an ongoing interactive street theatre performed in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Karachi with Azad Theatre, an augmented reality (AR) Instagram filter, an interactive radio show with Afzal Sahir, and an ongoing two-week internship programme featuring 60 students from 22 universities across Pakistan.
Sarah Belal, the founder and executive director of the JPP, pointed out that although Pakistan sentenced very few women to death, the justice system disproportionately affected women who had to engage with the system in one way or another, whether it was visiting a police station to file a complaint or to attend court hearings.
“We hope that the campaign, ‘This Is (Not) A Game’, will play an important role in bringing the systemic issues in the criminal justice system to the forefront of people’s minds and will remind everyone that justice and the death penalty are not synonymous,” she added.
Since the de-facto moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 2014, the country has executed 516 individuals. Pakistan also has almost 4,000 individuals on death row – around 15% of the world’s death row population.