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    HRW asks Pak Govt to abolish capital punishment

    New York (PTI): Observing that the maximum number of people executed to death, in world, are from Pakistan, an international human rights watchdog has urged the newly elected government in Pakistan to abolish the death penalty.

    In a letter to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani, the Human Rights Watch has said that until the death penalty is abolished by an act of Parliament, Pakistan should announce an immediate moratorium.

    "The number of persons sentenced to death and executed every year in Pakistan is among the highest in the world," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said adding, "if the new government is really interested in justice, it would end this unacceptable state of affairs."

    Crimes carrying death penalty have significantly increased under Pervez Musharraf's government resulting in a much higher number of death sentences and executions.

    The HRW has also urged to the government to establish a commission to review the application of the death penalty, the offences for which it can be applied, and to implement reforms to ensure that the international fair trial standards are met.

    Of more than 31,400 convicts in Pakistan, nearly a quarter more than 7,000 individuals, including almost 40 women have been sentenced to death, and are either involved in lengthy appeals processes or awaiting execution.

    Noting that most of those executed were poor and illiterate, the HRW said that the torture is endemic in Pakistan and can lead to wrongful convictions and execution of innocent people.

    Lawyers and human rights activists believe that in many cases the person executed was either innocent or the capital punishment was used to settle political scores, it added.

    In 2007, 309 people were sentenced to death and 134 were hanged

    Expressing concern over the use of death penalty by special courts like the anti-terrorism, narcotics and military courts, HRW urged the Pakistani government to ensure reforms are put in place before any death sentence is handed down or carried out.

    "There are serious weaknesses in the legal system that lead to unjust executions. The new government should place reform at the center of its agenda," said Adams.

    The proposed reforms include ensuring defendants in death penalty cases have prompt access to competent counsel; that torture and other ill-treatment is not used to obtain confessions or evidence; and that all trials meet international fair trial standards and other relevant provisions of Pakistani and international law.

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