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Pakistan lifts ban on executions in nonterrorist cases

Pakistan has resumed executions for all convicted of capital offenses. Politicians say the move is needed to rein in militant attacks, but rights groups have blasted the change in policy.

Pakistan announced Tuesday that it had lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases, reversing an earlier policy that only convicted terrorists be put to death.

"The government has lifted the moratorium on the death penalty," a senior Interior Ministry official told news agency AFP. "The Interior Ministry has directed the provincial home departments to expedite the executions of all condemned prisoners whose mercy petitions have been rejected by the president."

More than 8,000 Pakistanis are currently on death row, according to rights group Amnesty International. However, the nation had a de facto ban on executions since 2008 until last December, when Taliban militants massacred more than 150 people, mostly children, at a school in the country's northwest.

The execution ban was lifted in the wake of the massacre, and Pakistan has hanged 24 convicted criminals since December.

Gefängnis in Pakistan - Taliban-Gefangene ARCHIV 2001

Rights groups estimate over 8,000 people are currently on death row in Pakistian

There are around 1,000 condemned prisoners in Pakistan whose clemency petitions have failed, according to the Interior Ministry. Supporters of the death penalty claim it is the only effective way to deal with militancy.

Rights groups criticize

Pakistani politicians argue that fast-track executions are necessary to combat extremist attacks in the nation, but human rights groups have criticized the resumption of executions. They argue that the courts system is notoriously slow and there is very little protection for judges and prosecutors, leading to extremists being able to intimidate witnesses and lawyers dropping charges.

"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.

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.

Police acknowledge that torture used to be common, but say that it is rarer today.

bw/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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