PAKISTAN

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Situation

Despite the adoption in 2018 of a law called the Juvenile Justice System Act 2018 (JJSA2018) which now explicitly prohibits the death penalty for juveniles (but without mentioning the abolition of life imprisonment), the death penalty can still be imposed on children under the age of 18, and executed, with reference to the Anti-Terrorism Decree, the Anti-Drugs Decree, or for crimes under HADD (religious precept). It can be estimated that there are approximately 800 convicted persons at risk or awaiting execution (depending on the progress of the proceedings) who were minors at the time of the acts of which they are accused.

Excerpts from Amnesty International’s 2017 report on the general context: “The law passed in 2016 was used to intimidate, harass and arbitrarily arrest human rights defenders because of comments posted online. Enforced disappearances were commonplace, and impunity was widespread. Blasphemy-related violence cost a student his life, and, rare event, the government condemned these actions. Large-scale protests were held to support anti-blasphemy laws that were used to condemn people who expressed their views. Journalists were attacked without knowing who their attackers were. Members of minorities continued to be discriminated against when trying to access economic and social rights. Women continued to be killed ‘in the name of honour’ despite the adoption, in 2016, of a law punishing this practice under criminal law.

Objectives

Expand the legal defence to at least ten young people on death row or at risk of life imprisonment.

Partners: Association L.A.W. (Pendjab), MRDO (Sindh), and several independant lawyers

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Achievements 2020

During 2020, Vivere’s program in Pakistan, and mainly in the two states of Punjab and Sindh, followed the broad lines of the objectives set in previous years, in compliance with the little-known Pakistani law of 2018 and in the spirit of international standards in juvenile justice: monitoring individual cases, organizing awareness-raising forums for judicial staff, and advocating with the public and the authorities to ensure fair judicial proceedings and to avoid the risk of the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the major cities, has significantly slowed down the pace and monitoring of judicial proceedings, and at times, at certain times of the year, visits by juveniles to prisons were prohibited.

Our partners, the Pakistani NGOs LAW (Legal Awareness Watch) in Punjab State and M.R.D.O. (Marvi Rural Development Organization) in Sindh, have strengthened their collaboration in organizing awareness-raising forums for police, social and judicial personnel. In 2020, 12 forums were organized (9 in Punjab and 3 in Sindh), with a total number of 383 participants. Many of them often discover on this occasion certain tools or little-known practices to comply with legal standards and sometimes improve or facilitate their work.

The two partner lawyers have also developed their action to follow up individual cases (all minors under 18 years of age) prosecuted and imprisoned for alleged serious crimes (generally for murder or violence, with some rare cases of ‘blasphemy’ or ‘terrorism’).

Despite all the difficulties of the overall working context, the two NGOs initiated a process of prison visits in 2020. From March to June 2020, officials from the two organizations visited 10 prisons in the two states as part of a study on “Detection of incarcerated juveniles, prosecuted for serious crimes, facing the death penalty or life imprisonment” (according to the Pakistan Penal Code). The main findings of the survey are detailed in the Annual Activity Report.