Pakistan hangs 12 death row convicts

Twelve men have been hanged on one day in Pakistan, bringing the total number convicts executed since the lifting of a de facto ban on capital punishment to 39. Human rights groups are critical of the resumed executions.

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Pakistan hanged at least 12 death row convicts Tuesday, marking the largest single number of people executed in a single day since the nation lifted a six-year moratorium on capital punishment in December, officials said.

An Interior Ministry source said 10 people had been hanged in Punjab alone, as well as two in Karachi.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif removed a de facto ban on the death penalty on December 17, one day after Taliban gunmen stormed a school in the country’s northwest, killing 154 people, most of them children.

Until the shooting, the death penalty could only be implemented against those convicted of terrorism, but the massacre put pressure on the Pakistani government to do more to combat militant extremists.

Pakistan Taliban-Überfall auf Schule in Peshawar In the wake of a school massacre in Pakistan’s northwest, officials say fast-track executions are necessary to deter militant attacks

“They were not only terrorists, they included the other crimes – some were murderers and some did other heinous crimes,” an Interior Ministry spokesman told the news agency Reuters.

Court martial exception

The men hanged Tuesday brings the total number convicts executed since the lifting of the ban to 39. Only one person was executed while the moratorium was in place, a soldier convicted by a court martial in 2012.

Human rights groups are highly critical of the renewed executions, accusing the Pakistani criminal justice system of being replete with unfair trials and police torture.

“We’ve seen time and time again that there is immeasurable injustice in Pakistan’s criminal justice system, with a rampant culture of police torture, inadequate counsel and unfair trials,” Sarah Belal of the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said in a statement.

Torture allegations

A joint research project conducted by JPP and Yale Law School in the United States revealed nearly 2,000 cases of torture in the eastern Pakistani district of Faisalabad, and that police frequently manufactured evidence and tortured suspects to elicit confessions.

“This shameful retreat to the gallows is no way to resolve Pakistan’s pressing security and law and order problems,” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific director, said last week.

It is estimated that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, the majority of whom have exhausted the appeals process.