Halt execution of death row prisoners: Burney
Islamabad: Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney on Friday appealed to Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to immediately halt executions of death row prisoners, including Indian national Sarabjit Singh, and convert all death sentences to life imprisonment.
Burney said he had taken up the matter with Gilani when he met him at a private function here yesterday.
He contended that 60 to 65 percent of death row prisoners in Pakistan were innocent or victims of a faulty justice system.
"Prime Minister Gilani has so far failed to deliver on his promises to help condemned prisoners," Burney said. He said that he had requested the Prime Minister to announce the conversion of all death sentences to life imprisonment in his upcoming speech to the nation on Pakistan`s Independence Day on August 14.
Burney noted that Gilani had announced in Parliament on June 21, 2008 that his government would forward a proposal to the presidency to convert all death sentences to life imprisonment.
The Premier had failed to deliver on this promise which had given death row prisoners "a hope of precious life", he said.
"In fact, since the Prime Minister`s announcement, more than eight persons have been hanged," he said.
Many death row prisoners have spent over two to three decades in prison and such "prolonged detention in the worst and inhuman circumstances" amounted to the worst kind of human rights violations, he said.
"Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in April 2010, which was signed by the President in June last year.”
"While such steps are welcome, we believe it is imperative for the government to also take immediate steps to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is aimed at the abolition of the death penalty," Burney said.
The government appears to have backtracked on its announcement regarding the conversion of death sentences to life imprisonment due to pressure from extremist religious groups, Burney said.
Indian national Sarabjit Singh is on death row in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in the 1990 blasts in the country that killed 14 people.
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