78% of death penalty cases overturned by Pakistan Supreme Court, reprieve delegation present report to the Law Minister
Islamabad, April 19, 2019 (PPI-OT): Mr. Timothy Moloney QC, a Criminal Law Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Ms. Maya Foa Director of a UK based NGO, Reprieve met with Federal Minister for Law and Justice, Barrister Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem and presented a report on Death Penalty Cases Overturned by Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday at the Law Ministry. The report revealed that 78% of death penalty cases out of 310 reported capital judgements between 2010 and 2018 have been overturned by Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitting, commuting the sentence, or ordering a review.
The Study also reveals that the Supreme Court frequently cites unreliable witness testimonies, involuntary or retracted confessions, insufficient or manipulated evidence and lack of motive of the accused as the primary reason for overturning death sentences. Additionally, the Supreme Court, in exercising its capital jurisdiction, raises serious doubts about the reliability of police investigation, particularly where there is an unexplained delay in registration of the First Information Report and where the evidence appears to be planted, manipulated or otherwise doubtful.
The Supreme Court has upheld death sentences for lethal offences only – every judgment of a non-lethal offence ended with the Supreme Court overturning the conviction or commuting the death sentence. Despite this, lower courts continue to regularly impose death sentences for non-lethal offences. The Supreme Court now recognizes a growing number of mitigating factors which counsel against a death sentence. These include: type and gravity of the offence, lesser participation by the accused, lack of premeditation, provocation, social and familial circumstances, partial compromise with the victim’s family, age of the accused, whether the accused was acting under the influence of an elder, mental state of the accused, capacity for reform and time spent on death row.
The Court has recognized that even a “single mitigating instance, available in a particular case, would be sufficient to put on guard the Judge not to award the penalty of death but life imprisonment.” The delegation also presented recommendations to the Law Minister based on the study to limit the death penalty in Pakistan. Law Minister thanked the delegation for presenting him the report on their findings and for their recommendations. Mr. Shahzad Akber, SAPM on Accountability was also present during the meeting.
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