February 19th, 2021 

By Staff Reporter 


In a recent presser released yesterday on February 18, human rights experts of the United Nations (UN) have lauded the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan to rescind the death penalty of three mentally challenged convicts, namely Kanizan Bibi and Imdad Ali.

 Experts from the body ‘applauded’ the SC for recognizing that executing mentally ill convicts ‘does not meet the ends of justice’ because the defendants cannot ‘appreciate the rationale behind their death sentence’ and hence should not be executed.

 On February 10, the apex court passed a landmark judgment while deciding the cases of three mentally-challenged convicts on death row. The court commuted the sentence of two inmates with severe schizophrenia to life imprisonment and ordered the authorities to file a fresh mercy petition for a third, Ghulam Abbas.

In addition to the particular cases at hand, the judgment also addressed the broader issue of the death penalty with regards to mentally challenged convicts, ordering the federal and provincial governments to establish mental health facilities.

 “The mental health of a person is as important and significant as his physical health. Unfortunately, it is often not given the importance and seriousness it deserves. Because of certain misconceptions, the implications of mental illnesses are overlooked, and the vulnerability or disability that it causes is not given due attention,” remarked Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik.

Human Rights experts of the United Nations had previously written letters to the apex court pleading with them to look into the issue. In the letter, the experts cited the convention on the rights of people with disabilities to remind the government and judiciary of Pakistan of its international obligations to mentally-ill death row inmates.

The letter emphasized that “states must refrain from imposing the death penalty on individuals who face special barriers in defending themselves on an equal basis with others, such as persons whose serious psychological and intellectual disabilities impeded their effective defense, and on persons that have limited moral culpability”. Calling on the Pakistani authorities to “promptly implement all aspects of this important ruling.”

In addition to commending the SC and government of Pakistan the UN press release held the country’s judicial system as an example to follow for other governments and judiciaries of the world.