SC orders fresh medical test of two death-row inmates

Published: October 24, 2018
Supreme Court. PHOTO: AFP

Supreme Court. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered a fresh medical examination of two mentally ill prisoners, currently on the death row.

The five-judge larger bench led by Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik resumed hearing of a review petition filed by the Punjab government and others to stop execution of death row prisoner Imdad Ali, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Likewise another case of a mentally ill Kanizan Bibi was also listed.

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During the hearing, the bench stated they are going to set a precedent as it is not about one prisoner but for future. A report by the medical board detailing the mental illness of Ali was reviewed by the court, however keeping in view the importance of matter in question, the bench has ordered a fresh medical examination.

This was the first hearing of this precedence-setting case after a two-member bench in May 2018, stated: “Pakistan’s international human rights obligations make it clear that a mentally ill prisoner cannot be hanged.” Legal experts suggest the case is likely to set a precedent that can save the mentally ill from being executed.

Moreover, the court ordered the medical board consisting of civil and military doctors to conduct a fresh medical test of both the prisoners and submit report in two months. The board will also inform the court about history and extent of the mental illness and the prospects of treatment.

Sentenced to death in 2001 over a shooting, Ali has spent 16 years on death row, with 4 years in solitary confinement in jail hospital due to his schizophrenia. He has been repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and a 2013 medical report stated him to be “insane.” His most recent reported medical evaluations in September and October 2016 found him to be suffering from psychotic symptoms actively and a psychiatrist at the prison has deemed him “a treatment-resistant case.”

Meanwhile, Kanizan is mute, at times unable to feed or clothe herself and rarely recognises or responds to family members. In 2000, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been on death row for 27 years.

Pakistan has signed many international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits execution of mentally ill prisoners. Islamic jurisprudence also disallows death penalty for the mentally ill. Yet in October 2016, the SC cleared the way for Ali’s execution, stating in its judgment schizophrenia was “not a mental illness” but a “recoverable disease.”

However, following public outcry, a fresh petition from his lawyers, and a review filed by the Punjab government, his third execution warrant was prevented from being issued.

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