Justice Project Pakistan is a legal action non-governmental organization that represents the most vulnerable Pakistani prisoners facing the harshest punishments at home and abroad. JPP has encountered grave human rights violations in the application of the death penalty in Pakistan; juveniles in Pakistan tried and detained alongside adults and executed; mercy petitions rejected en masse without due considerations to merit; and a lack of protective safeguards for mentally and physically disabled prisoners on death row, to name a few.
JPP’s multi-strategy methodology includes:
1) representing individuals to save their lives as well as establishing precedents that could save future lives;
2) educating government leaders and the public on how death penalty implementation violates moral principles and human rights standards through briefings, op-eds, workshops, and other outreach;
3) tracking the use of the death penalty to identify the most egregious abuses; and
4) public advocacy including radio, theatre, public events, and articles in English and Urdu media, both local and international.
In December 2016, JPP received the National Human Rights Award presented by the President of Pakistan in recognition of its work.
Pakistan’s use of the death penalty:
Pakistan is one of the world’s most prolific executioners. Despite growing global consensus against the death penalty, in 2014 Pakistan lifted a seven-year moratorium and brought back the death penalty in the wake of a grisly terrorist attack on schoolchildren in Peshawar. Since then, Pakistan has executed 508 prisoners. Through our extensive research, (most recently Counting the Condemned ) we know that Pakistan has one of the largest reported death rows in the world, with 4,688 condemned prisoners, and that every 7th person sentenced to death in the world is in Pakistan, while every 8th person executed in the world is a Pakistani citizen.
Over 33 crimes merit the death penalty in Pakistan, and the sentence is handed down erratically, resulting in an 85% overturned rate by the Supreme Court. Executions are also slanted along regional lines — Punjab has approximately half of Pakistan’s population, but accounts for 83% of the executions and 89% of death sentences in Pakistan. Even worse, Pakistan’s use of the death penalty has failed to deter crime, is not being used to curb terrorism and is exceedingly used as a political tool, as data analysed by Justice Project Pakistan suggests in its study titled ‘Counting Executions’.
Where there is no empirical evidence that death penalty deters crime or terrorism, a closer look at the data from the past two decades draws attention to a strong correlation between economic inequality, political violence and instability, and murder rates. This strong link is evident from the fact that the murder rate in Pakistan remained at 7.5 per 100,000 or higher in the years where per-capita GDP growth remains less than 2 percent.
About the database:
In the course of its advocacy and litigation work, JPP has developed a substantial collection of data sets on death row. With technical support from HURIDOCS, it has now developed open source data sets based on existing research on death row and on age determination under the Juvenile Justice Systems Ordinance. This project marks the beginning of the process of making the information publicly available, allowing the public and academic institutions to generate their own findings and base their campaigns on verified data.
Moreover, it allows JPP to maintain current data, ensuring that when advocacy opportunities arise, the data is already at hand. Data-driven advocacy is far more effective method than old school diplomacy as it is based on objective, verifiable facts; magnifies personal stories; the numbers are easier to organise; it identifies solutions, not problems; is poised to bring change faster. The JPP database will include such details as the number of prisoners on death row, the number of executions, trial details of the prisoners and other information as is applicable. A list of terms used for the database has been developed.
Justice Project Pakistan uses a three-step process to obtain and verify data on executions and death row population. The first source for executions are news reports, media releases, families of executed prisoners, fellow inmates and, in some cases, prison officials. Once JPP receives news about an execution, it verifies the occurrence with the death row population list available with it. In some cases, however, a prisoner on death row might not be mentioned in the list. As a third step, JPP confirms the execution with the relevant prison official(s) at the jail where the hanging has taken place.
Also for the death row population, news stories, media releases, families and inmates serve as JPP’s source of information along with relevant government officials from the Home Department, the Ministry of Interior, and courts.
In the absence of data compiled by independent sources, JPP relies on official figures which may not always be fully accurate. Hence, JPP also gathers qualitative and quantitative data about the prisoners, such as details about the alleged offence, when they were sentenced and by which court, and the time they have spent on death row. JPP gathers this information through news archives and detailed interviews conducted with family members of the prisoners, prison authorities, and journalists.