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SC refers Khizar's case to larger bench, orders new medical examination.

ISLAMABAD -- A two-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Justice Manzoor A. Malik, referred the case of mentally ill death row prisoner Khizar Hayat to a larger bench of the Supreme Court.

The five-member bench is currently hearing the precedent-setting case of two other mentally ill prisoners Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi.

During the proceedings, the apex court was informed about the negligence on the part of jail authorities in terms of treating the mentally ill prisoner under the Prison Rules. While suspending Khizar's execution warrant, the court strongly reprimanded the jail authorities for their failure to abide by the Prison Rules, and ordered a fresh medical examination for Khizar by a Special Medical Board constituted by the Supreme Court.

'Khizar Hayat was never provided adequate mental healthcare under the Rule 444 of Pakistan Prison Rules. Under the provision, the jail authorities are obligated to shift the prisoners of unsound mind to a mental health facility after an observatory period of ten days, ' argued Khizar's counsel before the judges.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by Justice Project Pakistan on behalf of Khizar's mother Iqbal Bano, challenging the Lahore High Court Divisional Bench's judgement dismissing Khizar's appeal and seeking a stay of his execution. The case was adjourned till the Special Medical Board examines Khizar and files their report before the Court.

Separately, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had also taken a suo motu notice of Khizar's case on 12 January in the wake of a public outcry, and had suspended his execution warrant.

The jail authorities had obtained the death warrant for Khizar Hayat on 10 January despite an order of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) abstaining them from doing so while the Supreme Court is setting jurisprudence on the matter.

Following the news of Khizar's execution warrant, several people - including psychiatrists, celebrities, activists and lawyers - had come forward with their appeals to halt Khizar's execution. Using the hashtag #SaveKhizarHayat, actor/director Sarmad Khoosat and singer Ali Zafar sent out video messages to the President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi to use his power of clemency to save Khizar.

United Nations' special rapporteurs in a statement released on 13 January also urged the Government to halt Khizar's execution. 'The imposition of capital punishment on individuals with psychosocial disabilities is a clear violation of Pakistan's international obligations, ' they said.

Khizar has spent 16 years on death row after he was sentenced to death for fatally shooting his friend, a fellow police official. He was first diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 2008 by jail authorities and several psychiatrists who have examined him since then have diagnosed him as actively suffering from schizophrenia, with no improvement in condition. The fact of his mental illness and treatment within the jail was never raised by his state counsel or disclosed by the jail authorities during his trial and appeals.

Pakistan has signed international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibit the execution of mentally ill prisoners. The country's compliance with its human rights obligations comes into question especially in light of the recent recommendations by the Human Rights Committee. The Committee recommended to Pakistan's in its first ever review that 'No one with serious psychological or mental disabilities is executed or sentenced to death'. Islamic jurisprudence also disallows the death penalty for the mentally ill.

Sarah Belal, Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan said, 'We are relieved that Khizar Hayat's life has been saved for the time being. However, this is the 4th time in 3 years that the jail authorities have scheduled his execution - dragging Khizar and his family through this is nothing short of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A stay is not enough, mentally ill prisoners belong to a mental health facility not death row. '
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jan 15, 2019
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