–Justice Nisar says international legal systems unequivocally forbid executions of mentally ill persons
LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday reconsidered the death sentences handed to Kaniz Fatima and Imdad Ali, mentally ill convicts on death row.
Acting on a suo motu notice, a two-member bench of the top court comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan took up the matter, with the latter asking how the state can execute mentally ill persons.
“Neither sensibility nor reason allow me to believe that we can execute mentally ill or disabled persons,” the CJP stated during the proceedings, recalling that the international legal systems had unequivocally forbidden the execution of a mentally ill person.
The court subsequently formed a five-member bench to decide the matter and give a ruling.
In October 2016, the SC had cleared the way for Imdad Ali’s execution after ruling that schizophrenia — which Ali suffers from — was a “curable disease”.
However, the warrant for his execution was never issued because of severe criticism over the ruling, a new petition from Ali’s lawyers and a request for review from the Punjab government.
The bench on Saturday said that if a medical board certifies that Ali suffers from schizophrenia, “we cannot allow a mentally disabled person to be executed.”
Meanwhile, it also ordered that Fatima should be provided with the best treatment possible at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) and a medical board be formed to assess her mental condition.
Delivering a warning to Dr Tahir Munir — a representative of PIMH — against acting contrary to the court’s orders, the chief justice recalled that when he last visited the hospital, he had witnessed poor conditions.
“PIMH seems to be less hospital and more jail. I have heard that patients are forced to relieve themselves on their beds,” he said, admonishing the hospital’s representative.
He said he had also heard reports that mentally unstable children were abused at the hospital, while male hospital attendants were made to look after female patients as well.
He warned the hospital administration to be prepared for his visit to the institution at any given time.
On the other hand, Kaniz Fatima has reportedly not spoken for the last 12 years, and is unable to eat, drink or take care of herself without assistance.
Her case was highlighted recently when a plea for clemency penned by her father which described in detail how Kaniz Fatima was tortured by police to the point of insanity when she was only 16 for a false ‘confession’ in a murder case. Kaniz Fatima has so far spent 27 years behind bars and her father passed away two years ago.