Burney demands conversion of death sentences to life-terms
ISLAMABAD: Ansar Burney Trust International chairman Advocate Ansar Burney on Thursday once again demanded of President Asif Ali Zardari to convert all death sentences into life imprisonment and claimed that 60 to 65 percent of condemned prisoners were innocent or prisoners of circumstances. In a fresh appeal and letter to President Zardari, he said the government had so far failed to honour its promise to help condemned prisoners.
Burney, who is also a former UN adviser on human rights, said up to 60 to 65 percent of all condemned prisoners in Pakistan were most likely innocent or victims of allegedly a faulty justice system. “We have no sympathy with hardened criminals and terrorists, but how can we allow hanging innocent prisoners,” he added.
Burney said former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Galani had made announcement during address to the National Assembly on June 21, 2008 that the PPP government would soon forward a proposal to the presidency to convert all death sentences into life imprisonment. “However, the Ansar Burney Trust has learnt through reliable sources in the Interior Ministry that no such proposal has been prepared or forwarded,” he added.
Burney said many among condemned prisoners had already spent more than two to three decades in death cells and that prolonged detention in worst and inhuman circumstances on death row was worst kind of human rights violations. He said Pakistan voted against a United Nation General Assembly resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2007.
“Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in April 2010, which was signed by the president in June. While these steps are welcome, the ALRC believes that 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, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty,” Burney added. He said the government on different occasions, always promised since June 21, 2008 to commute death sentences into life, but no action had so far been taken in this regard. “In fact, since the former prime minister’s announcement, unfortunately more than seven persons have already been hanged,” he added.