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 2020 Report on the general context: “For the first time in several years, Japan, Pakistan and Singapore have not reported any executions”. This has been the case in other countries where the Covid pandemic has slowed down all judicial proceedings. However, despite the existence of the 2018 law banning the death penalty for minors, the risk is still real in cases of serious crimes committed by minors, where there is no proof of their age at the time of the crime or even where identity or school attendance documents are considered by the court to be false.
Furthermore, there is always a risk that minors involved in actions considered as terrorism or blasphemy will be sentenced to death because in such cases the Juvenile Justice Act is not always considered applicable, especially in the very many cases where minors have no defence system.
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), SANJOG (Balûchistân), and several independant lawyers
During 2021, 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 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. A new partnership was established with the association SANJOG to develop the action of Vivere in other provinces of the country, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In 2021, 9 forums were organised (4 in Punjab, 4 in Sindh and 1 in Baluchistan), with a total number of 365 participants (police officers, judges, lawyers, social assistants, media, etc). 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 continued a second round of prison visits. Over the 2 years, 20 prisons in the two states were surveyed for “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.
The “Newsletter” managed by LAW has gradually expanded its distribution to 250 recipients: it includes information on juvenile justice, comments on the law, individual (non-nominal) situations, press extracts, etc.