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The complexity of the law, hundreds of children await justice in prisons

Criminal Laws for minors

Last updated on July 25th, 2019 at 03:57 pm

According to human rights organizations in Pakistan, due to the complexity of implementing the laws relating to minors, there are still severe punishments for children. And there are hundreds of prisoners who are minors or they were minors when they committed crimes are awaiting severe punishment, including the death sentence.

There is a confusion about the number of such prisoners in government and non-governmental organizations’ data who are dealing with teen-age prisoners, but according to estimates, there are close to 1,000 in prisons across the country who committed crimes in childhood.

According to Justice Project Pakistan, at present, there are 1225 prisoners in all jails in the country who are minors, or they were minors while committing crimes. Since 2014, at least six persons have been executed who were minors when they committed crimes.

There are still at least three people in various prisons who have been admitted to committing crimes when they were minors, but yet, they have been sentenced to death, and they are now awaiting execution.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, five such people were sentenced to death from 2004 to 2019 while one was hanged which committed a crime in his childhood.

Criminal Laws for minors

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in 2015. In this statement, the commission mentioned that probably there are hundreds of prisoners out of 8,000 prisoners convicted with death penalty who committed crimes in their childhood.

The government of Pakistan, however, refuses to provide any information about it, and a spokesman for the Federal Interior Ministry said that such information could not be made available to the public when The Citizen reached out for a statement on the matter.

Pakistan is one of the 160th countries in the world that have legislated under the UN Conventions not to punish people under the age of 18 for crimes.

Pakistan implemented the latest law in this regard in last year, 2018, under which not only can people be sentenced to death who are less than 18 years of age at crime but their cases will be heard in “Children’s Courts.”

But human rights activists and legal experts say the implementation of the law has serious complications because neither nationwide ‘children’s courts’ have been set up nor have any measures been taken to assess the age of the arrested suspects.

According to the well-known lawyer and social leader Hina Jilani, across Punjab, only one ‘children’s court’ has been set up in Lahore.

During discussing the matter with The Citizen, she said, “Rules and Regulations for the Juvenile Justice System Act which was passed recently, have not been decided yet. Under this law, rules must be defined on how to treat children in prisons and how their age will be determined?”

Jilani further added that there is no awareness for determining the age of accused in Pakistan and it should be made compulsory, especially in the cases of underage persons.

On the implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Act, a human rights spokesman told The Citizen that he had sent letters to the relevant departments of all the provinces to get the latest information, but no response has been received yet.

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