Pakistan's highest court has dismissed an appeal by a mentally-ill prisoner who has spent the last 14 years on death row. Imdad Ali, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, could be executed within the next week for killing a religious teacher in 2002.
Ali, who prison doctors have said is "insane", was given a last minute stay of execution last week as Pakistan's Supreme Court considered his case. Clive Stafford Smith, director of anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, wrote in IBTimesUK that Ali had no idea that he was about to be executed and why.
But on 27 September judges claimed that a large number of Pakistani prisoners suffered from mental illness and that they "could not let everyone go". His lawyers are now waiting to see if Ali is issued with a "black warrant" that would see him likely to be put to death by October 4.
Campaigners and lawyers have argued that Ali's execution would violate both Pakistani and international law. A petition has been sent to Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain with medical evidence of his condition, which family members say has afflicted Ali since 1998.
Stafford-Smith, writing in IBTimesUK, said: "It has been a principle of law for more than 300 years [...] that if "a mad man is executed, [it would] be a miserable spectacle, both against law, and of extreme inhumanity and cruelty, and can be no example to others." How can we punish someone, he asked, "if that person has only the vaguest comprehension of what is being done to him and why?"
Since Pakistan re-introduced the death penalty in 2015, more than 400 people have been executed in the country, making it the third most prolific executioners after Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan ranked in the top five for the first time since 2008, when it imposed a moratorium on executions.
A statement issued by 14 of Pakistan's leading psychiatrists has warned that executing Ali would run contrary to Pakistani law. "[The] law does not allow such execution of prisoners suffering from this nature of mental disorder in which the prisoner is having a psychotic illness and is unable to know why he is being executed and what will be the consequence of this punishment," they wrote.
Harriet McCulloch, deputy director at Reprieve said: "It is indisputable that Imdad suffers from serious mental illness. There is therefore no doubt that, should Pakistan execute him, it will be committing a grave violation of both Pakistani and international law. It is shocking that the system has failed Imdad at every turn – right the way up to the Supreme Court.
"The Pakistan Government must immediately halt Imdad's execution, and undertake a comprehensive review into how someone who is clearly mentally unfit to be executed has been allowed to come so near to the noose."