Pakistan Bans Child Death Sentences

Published July 2nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Pakistan introduced sweeping legal reforms on Saturday, including changes to a law that allowed children as young as 14 to be sentenced to death, reported The Associated Press, quoting a judiciary official.  

The death penalty now may only be imposed against people 18 or older, the military-led government decreed, said the agency.  

Also, accused children will not be physically punished, handcuffed, or placed in chains - except when there is "reasonable apprehension of the escape of the child."  

The new law also barred physical labor for children while in prison.  

Thousands of children under 18 are in Pakistani prisons, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said the AP. 

It added that more than 2,500 juveniles are imprisoned in the eastern Punjab province alone.  

Only 243 were convicted of crimes; the remainders are awaiting trial, the commission said in its annual report.  

Reforming Pakistan's justice system has been one of the key pledges of the military government, which seized power in a bloodless coup on October 12th.  

Pressed by human rights groups, the federal government empowered the provinces to establish special juvenile courts, the AP added.  

In the past, children were tried in adult courts. All old cases involving children will be transferred to the new juvenile courts.  

Other new regulations include that every child charged with or victimized by a crime has a right to legal assistance at the state's expense, said the AP.  

Other regulations include that the identity of a child involved in court proceedings may not be published and that a child suspect may not be tried with an adult, said the AP - Albawaba.com 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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