The execution warrant of Khizar Hayat, a severely mentally ill prisoner, was issued by the District and Sessions Judge, Lahore on Thursday, scheduling his execution for January 15. This will make Khizar the first Pakistani to be executed in 2019.
“The warrant stands in blatant violation of the orders of the National Commission for Human Rights,” said Justice Project Pakistan in a press release. “[It] had categorically abstained the authorities from issuing Khizar’s death warrant until the Supreme Court decides the matter of mentally ill death row prisoners in a precedent-setting case currently pending before a larger bench.”
Islamic jurisprudence also disallows the death penalty for the mentally ill.
The commission held an urgent hearing on December 18, 2018 after a divisional bench of the Lahore High Court dismissed a petition filed by the JPP on behalf of Khizar’s mother Iqbal Bano on December 6. The petition called for the prisoner to be shifted to a mental health facility. The NCHR had initiated an inquiry into Khizar’s case in November 2016 on a complaint filed by JPP on the grounds of his severe mental illness.
“Executing Khizar, while the Supreme Court is still deciding on the question of executing the mentally ill, is not just unnecessarily cruel but also in violation of Pakistan’s international obligations,” said JPP’s Sarah Belal. “By obtaining the death warrants of a mentally ill prisoner, the prison officials have paved the way for another wrongful execution. This display of utter disregard towards the orders of the country’s foremost authority on human rights by the jail authorities underscores the need for immediate reform to protect the most vulnerable prisoners on death row.”
The fact that Central Jail, Lahore Deputy Superintendent Muhammad Arshad was at the NCHR hearing speaks volumes of the gross negligence on part of the jail authorities, said the JPP.
Khizar was first diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 2008 by the jail authorities. He suffers from delusions and has to be heavily medicated. He has no idea how long he has been in jail, does not know why he is on death row and believes that the medication he is taking are anti-malarial pills. A court-sanctioned examination at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health in July 2016 concluded unanimously that Khizar suffers from ‘psychosis’ and ‘schizophrenia’.
Khizar was sentenced to death in 2003 for fatally shooting a fellow police officer, and has spent nearly 16 years on death row. During the course of his incarceration, he has faced numerous severe near-fatal attacks by fellow inmates as a result of his mental illness. Since 2012, he has been kept in solitary confinement.
Pakistan has signed international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit the execution of mentally ill prisoners. The country’s compliance with its human rights obligations comes into question especially in light of the recent recommendations by the Human Rights Committee. The Committee recommended after Pakistan’s first ever periodic review that, “No one with serious psychological or mental disabilities is executed or sentenced to death”.