A young man whose alleged crime was committed when he was only 14, and who says he was subjected to police torture, is due to hang this week in Pakistan, after the moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre.
Shafqat Hussain claims that when he was 14, the Karachi police brutally tortured him for nine days until he confessed to a crime he did not commit: the kidnapping and murder of a seven-year-old child who had disappeared.
No evidence other than his confession was presented to the court. That was in 2004. He lost an appeal against the conviction in 2007, and today the Sindh High Court dismissed an appeal for a stay of execution.
Like the execution of minors convicted of murder, the use of torture is forbidden under Pakistani law.
The moratorium on hanging was lifted after 145 people, 132 of them schoolchildren, were massacred at a school in Peshawar in December. Yesterday, the state executed 12 people, the largest single day of executions since December.
An educationally subnormal Kashmiri and the youngest of seven, Mr Hussain dropped out of school at 13, barely able to read or write. He moved to Karachi to join an elder brother, Manzoor, and worked as a caretaker. A year later, after the disappearance of a child from the building where he worked, he was arrested.
Fatima Bhutto, a grand-daughter of the late Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, said, “The boy was held in solitary confinement, his genitals electrocuted and he was burnt with cigarette butts.
"The policemen interrogating him removed three of his fingernails... He was told he would never escape custody or his torturers until he confessed to a crime he did not commit.”
Shafqat’s brother, Manzoor, told the BBC: “When I asked him about torture in custody, he started shivering and wet his pants.
"He put both his hands on his head and started crying, saying, ‘Don’t ask, I can’t tell you what they did.’ ”
When the moratorium was debated in December, lawyers acting for Hussain raised the issue of his age at the time of the murder.
The Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, halted his execution and promised an inquiry. But when the moratorium was actually lifted, an order for Hussain’s execution one week later was issued, even though the tests demanded by the minister had yet to be carried out.
Mr Khan, arguing that Shafqat Hussain’s sentence had been handed down by the anti-terrorist courts and that President Mamnoon Hussain had already dismissed his appeal for clemency, said that the issue of his execution “should not be politicised”.