By Sana Jamal
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has sent at least 160 convicted criminals to the gallows since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on executions in the aftermath of cold-blooded murder of 140 school children in Peshawar on 16 Dec. 2014 by terrorists.
This tragic event shocked the nation and sparked off a public demand to execute those responsible for terrorism and high-profile crimes.
However, Pakistan’s decision to send terrorists and notorious criminals to the gallows came under criticism by international and some national organizations citing flaw in Pakistan’s judicial system and police interrogation.
Amnesty International has described the decision to reinstate the death penalty as a “shameful retreat to the gallows” which is “no way to resolve Pakistan’s pressing security and law-and-order problems”.
A European Union (EU) statement issued in Brussels on June 10, 2015 called the death penalties “a major step backwards in Pakistan’s record on human rights.”
The statement warned that “Pakistan’s obligations under domestic and international law prohibit the death sentence for crimes committed by persons under eighteen years of age and require prompt and impartial investigation where there is reasonable ground to believe that torture has been committed.”
Pakistan, however, has overruled the European Union’s (EU) concerns arguing that Pakistan is not violating international laws and “only convicts involved in heinous crimes are being executed.” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah explained in a briefing that awarding of death sentences is under international laws and it is Pakistan’s internal affair.
The EU’s reaction to Pakistan’s move raised eyebrows in Pakistan’s authoritative circle while several Pakistanis termed it as interference in Pakistan’s judicial system.
To elucidate the EU stance, this correspondent sought a clarification on the issue to which the EU Representative in Pakistan justified the western concern.
“Terrorism is a common enemy to all nations and peoples in the world and the European Union countries encourage the respect and strengthening of rule of law above all and is ready for co-operation against terrorism,” Mr. Stefano Gatto, Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan said.
The June 2015 EU statement reminded that effective implementation of the international conventions is a requirement for Pakistan under the European Union’s GSP+ Regulation.
EU representative reiterated: “We also co-operate in several forms in counter-terrorism activities, terrorism is a common enemy to all nations and peoples in the world”, he recalled but added “GSP+ is a set of concessions aiming at supporting economic development to favour a positive trend in the improvement of human rights standards on the ground.”
Mr. Stefano Gatto recalled that “It is not that the EU countries have not been exposed to horrible terrorist attacks, but we do not believe death penalty is a useful deterrent to prevent and avoid terrorism.”
When asked why EU is opposed death penalties for terrorists in Pakistan, EU official reasoned that “the problem with death penalty is its irreversibility, which requires total certainty and very high standards of performance of the judicial system in order to avoid possible and abuses, which would have no remedy possible.”
The EU official also noted that when linking between death penalty and fight against terrorism, out of 170 persons executed in Pakistan since the lifting of the moratorium, only 23 were condemned for terrorism, and they were executed in the very first weeks of action.
When asked about concern in Pakistan that “western countries are allegedly putting pressure on Pakistan to go against its judicial convictions and that EU’s GSP+ concessions is linked with the reprieve for terrorists”, the EU envoy termed it a misplaced concerned.
EU official, Mr. Stefano Gatto, explained that “the EU countries encourage the respect and strengthening of rule of law above all, and cooperation in anti-terrorism is but GSP+ is a set of concessions aiming at supporting economic development to favour a positive trend in the improvement of human rights standards on the ground.”
This article was originally published in Pakistan Observer.