Death Penalty is a distraction from accountability and criminal justice reform

Islamabad, December 23, 2014:  Bytes for All is concerned about the apparent knee jerk reaction of the Government to the recent Peshawar tragedy, and calls for the development of a pro-human rights and effective counter-terrorism policy and accountability within its own ranks, instead of using the execution of death-row prisoners as a distraction from real solutions.  

Pakistan has hanged six prisoners convicted on terrorism-related charges over the past five days, and has vowed to send about 500 more to the gallows over the next three weeks.
 
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the immediate lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty as his hasty response to last week’s deadly terrorist attack at a school in Peshawar in which over 140 people, mostly children, were murdered. Home minister of Punjab province Shuja Khanzada recently said that the “executions of terrorists will boost the morale of the nation”.
 
“The Pakistani public are rightly outraged at the horrific massacre of children,” said Shahzad Ahmad, country director of Bytes For All. “However, instead of distracting the public by executing people already behind bars, the state has a responsibility to explain why such massive security lapses repeatedly and regularly take place.”
 
Ahmad pointed out that there is no evidence to show that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to terrorists, and expressed concern that flaws in the Pakistani judicial system make the possibility of innocent people being executed very likely.
 
The Justice Project Pakistan this week highlighted the case of death-row prisoner Shafqat Hussain who was sentenced at the age of 14 for involuntary manslaughter, on the basis of a confession extracted through torture.
 
 Pakistan is one of the eight countries in the world, that have executed prisoners who were convicted as juveniles. Following the decision to lift the moratorium on capital punishment, the United Nations also appealed to Pakistan to refrain from resuming executions and feeding a ‘circle of revenge’.  
 
“Strengthening the criminal justice system, in terms of legislation, investigation and prosecution, to ensure that the right people are punished for their crimes, is far more important than hastily killing convicts,” said Bytes For All's Shahzad Ahmad.
 
Furthermore, Bytes for All is also concerned about the glamorization of violence fed by the state and the media, particularly over the Internet. Since the Peshawar tragedy, there has been a notable increase in online hate speech and incitement of violence, for example, the mass sharing of execution videos and pictures.
 
“Ending the life of a convict may satisfy our desire for revenge, but it does little to prevent the horrific incident of Peshawar's Army Public School from repeating itself.”
 
 
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About Bytes for All, Pakistan
 
Bytes for All (B4A), Pakistan is a human rights organization and a network of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) professionals and practitioners. It experiments and organizes debate on the relevance of ICTs for sustainable development and strengthening social justice movements in the country. Its mission is “ICTs for development, democracy and social justice”. www.bytesforall.pk
 
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Bytes for All, Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan
 
email: info[at]bytesforall.pk
Tel. +92 51 2110494-9