Insights

Supreme Court of Pakistan finds carrying out the death penalty on the mentally ill to be unlawful

The death penalty is a form of punishment that has been condemned internationally. Many see it as an abuse of human rights with activists waging a decades long war against governments to see it eradicated from society. Many executions have involved prisoners with severe mental health conditions. Criminal justice systems around the world have stigmatised individuals suffering from mental illnesses, with few safeguards being put in place resulting in severe procedural deficiencies.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan recently ruled in a landmark case that the execution of severely mentally disabled prisoners is unlawful: Bano and others v Home Department of Punjab and others (unreported, Supreme Court of Pakistan, 2021).

This decision was celebrated by human rights groups around the world, most notably the United Nations, with many awaiting to see this principle applied in future practice in Pakistan and elsewhere.

A five member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in its review jurisdiction on 7 January 2021, handed down an important decision clearly ruling that, in Pakistan, it was unlawful and inhumane to execute a person who suffered from profound mental illness.

The article available at this link discusses the decision.

Andrada Kacso and Madhuri Pilla