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Pakistan
05.08.02
Urgent Interventions

Pakistan: Mr. Anwar Kenneth has been sentenced to death under the blasphemy law

Case PAK 050802
Death penalty / Fair trial

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a member of the OMCT network, that Mr. Anwar Kenneth has been sentenced to death under the blasphemy law in what OMCT considers to be an unfair trial in Lahore, Pakistan.

According to the information received, Mr. Anwar Kenneth, a former officer in the Government's Fisheries Department, was arrested by Gawalmandi police officer Zaffar-u-ullah on June 15th, 2001, while distributing a pamphlet (Gospel of Jesus). Mr. Kenneth reportedly made a statement before the court that he had done nothing wrong. He also sent a copy of his letter to the Gawalmandi police after which a first investigation report (FIR) was lodged against him. A case of blasphemy was subsequently registered against Mr. Kenneth that resulted in the court issuing a death sentence and a fine of 500,000 rupees (US$8,335) against him by the Additional Sessions Court in Lahore on July 18th, 2002.

According to the information received, death sentences are being imposed in blasphemy cases on a regular basis in Pakistan, with at least three such sentences having been issued in blasphemy cases in the past month. Prior to Mr. Kenneth's death sentence, Mr. Kingri Masih was sentenced to death by a Sessions Court in Faisalabad on June 29th. Subsequently, Mr. Wajih-ul-Hassan has been sentenced to death in Lahore on July 27th. Section 295C of Pakistan's Penal Code provides the death penalty for "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of The Holy Prophet".

According to the information received, there are serious doubts about Mr. Kenneth's mental health, notably given that he had called himself a prophet, that he claimed to receive revelations from God, and that he declined to appeal the decision because he claims he will not die even if thrown into the fire. Furthermore, Bishop Samuel Azariah, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church of Pakistan, who reportedly knows Mr. Kenneth personally, stated that he believes he needs medical treatment. Social workers have also stated that Mr. Kenneth had a history of psychiatric problems. Mr. Kenneth reportedly refused the help of a defence lawyer. Therefore, the case was concluded without a defence, and the conviction was made on the basis of Mr. Kenneth's confession. There was no attempt to scrutinise the confession.

According to the information received, Advocate Pervaiz Aslam Chowdhry emphasised the importance of careful scrutiny of a confession, especially when the maximum possible sentence is under consideration. He said that even the slightest doubt or legal gap should prevent the court from making a judgement, adding that it could be inferred from the speed with which this case was concluded that this did not happen in Mr. Kenneth's case. In the case of Mr. Kenneth, it was the responsibility of the court to have him examined by a medical board to gauge his mental stability before allowing him to face a trial, but this evaluation was reportedly not performed. OMCT believes that the conditions for a fair trial were therefore not present in this case, which is particularly serious given the nature of the sentence that was handed out as a result.

Furthermore, reports indicate that threats have been made against Mr. Kenneth’s life by other prisoners in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat prison, leading OMCT to harbour grave concerns for his immediate physical and psychological integrity, in addition to the death sentence that he has received.

OMCT wishes to join with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in pointing out that the blasphemy law is vague and open to abuse. Its unclear scope imposes a harsh burden on non-Muslims in Pakistan and is a severe limit on religious freedom, as it can and reportedly has been used to target religious minorities in Pakistan. The law has also reportedly often been used by those with personal grudges, as well as against Muslims who have converted to Christianity; when Pakistan's leader, General Musharraf, considered amending the law to limit such potential abuses, pressure from Islamic hardliners reportedly caused him to abandon these amendments, so the law remains open to much abuse.

The International Secretariat of OMCT strongly opposes the application of the death penalty under any circumstances, considering it to be an extreme form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a violation of the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. OMCT also considers that in countries where the death penalty is still in force, human rights standards require the restriction of the application of the death penalty to the most limited possible set of crimes, with stringent legal protections, which OMCT believes were not present in this case.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Pakistan urging them to:

i. guarantee Mr. Kenneth’s physical and psychological integrity;
ii. ensure that Mr. Kenneth receive an impartial evaluation of his mental health, in order to establish whether he was fit to stand trial;
iii. immediately repeal the death sentence given to Mr. Kenneth, and, in the case that he is found to have been unfit to face trial, ensure that he be provided with adequate medical assistance;
iv. immediately repeal the blasphemy law, as it has been found to be open to abuse;
v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses

· General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, Pakistan, Email: CE@pak.gov.pk, Fax: +92-51-9201893 / +92-51-9201835 / +92-51-9204632 / + 92 51 922 4768

· Mr. Khalid Ranjha, The Federal Minister, Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, S-Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan, Email: molaw1@comsats.net.pk, Fax: +92-51-9202628

· Mr. Inamul Haq, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Constitution Avenue, Islamabad, Pakistan, Email: minister@interior.gov.pk, Fax: + 92 51 920 7217

· Office of Attorney General of Pakistan, S-Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, Pakistan, Fax: +92-51-9215852 / +92-51-9220967


Please also write to the embassies of Pakistan in your respective country.

Geneva, August 5th, 2002

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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