Taking a cue from the European Union, the United Nations (UN) has urged Pakistan to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty with immediate effect, expressing deep concern at the increasing number and pace of executions in the country since December 2004.
“The right to life is a fundamental human right. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that the death penalty has no place in the 21st century,” said a statement issued by the UN office earlier today.
“It has also been reported that among those executed there are persons who were minors when the offence was committed. According to some estimates, there are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row,” the statement added.
The UN in Pakistan is concerned about cases where the death penalty was handed to minors but welcomes reviews of these cases, i.e. the recent case of Shafqat Hussain.
The statement said that the “UN has consistently called for an unequivocal end to the execution of anyone, anywhere, who is convicted of committing a crime when they are under the age of 18”.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has expressed deep regret at the resumption of executions in Pakistan, stressing that no judiciary – anywhere – can be infallible.
He noted in December 2014 that “this is particularly disappointing given that just last week, a record 117 States voted in the UN General Assembly (Resolution 69/186 was adopted on 18 December 2014) in favour of an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”
“There is no scientific proof that the death penalty serves as a deterrent or contributes to combating crime or violent extremism,” it said.
While the UN appreciated the need for effective counter-terrorism measures to protect people, including children, such actions must strengthen human rights and be proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.
“Moving away from the death penalty will contribute to human development, dignity and rights,” the statement maintained.
“The UN in Pakistan, therefore, urges the government to reinstate its moratorium as soon as possible. We stand ready to support it in doing so and to assist in strengthening the existing justice system if so requested”, added the statement.