Schizophrenic man faces execution on Nov. 2 after Supreme Court ruling that deemed his mental illness ‘recoverable.’
Authorities on Wednesday issued a death warrant for a mentally ill prisoner after the Supreme Court ruled that his schizophrenia is “not a permanent mental disorder.”
Lawyers and rights groups say convicted murderer Imdad Ali, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in prison in 2012, cannot be executed as he cannot understand his crime and punishment. Ali’s death warrant was issued by a criminal court on the request of the provincial Punjab government, said a statement by The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which is providing Ali with counsel.
It follows a ruling last week by Pakistan’s top court that said schizophrenia was a “recoverable disease” that could be treated by drugs, and not a mental disorder. He will now be executed on Nov. 2 in a prison in Vehari, the JPP added.
Ali, aged 50, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002. He had been sentenced to hang last month, but received a last minute stay of execution by the Supreme Court, before that expired last week.
Rights groups have slammed the ruling, with Amnesty calling it “a deeply worrying development.”
Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, last week called the Supreme Court ruling “outrageous” and said it flies in the face of accepted medical knowledge—including in Pakistan. “It is terrifying to think that a mentally ill man like Imdad Ali could now hang because judges are pretending that schizophrenia is not a serious condition,” Foa said, demanding Pakistan’s president intervene.
Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people. Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offenses, with over 400 people hung from more than 8,000 death row prisoners.
The JPP has already sent a mercy petition to President Mamnoon Hussain along with testimony from medical experts. It remains pending with his office since Sept. 19.
Ali has spent 14 years on death row, with three years in solitary confinement in the jail hospital due to his schizophrenia. “Imdad’s hanging will signal to the world that Pakistan does not take its human rights commitments and treaty obligations seriously,” said Sarah Belal, JPP executive director.