‘Irreversible miscarriage of justice’ – doctors warn Pakistan over executing mentally ill

The World Psychiatric Association has warned Pakistan not to execute a severely mentally ill man.

Khizar Hayat, a former policeman, could be hanged after a stay preventing his execution expires today (Monday 30th January) unless judges agree to lengthen it.

The Association of over 200,000 psychiatrists worldwide said it was “extremely concerned” by plans to execute Hayat. It added that his “execution would be an irreversible miscarriage of justice.”

Khizar Hayat was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. After eight years of treatment with powerful anti-psychotic medications, his symptoms remain as serious as ever, leading to a diagnosis that his schizophrenia is treatment resistant.

His case has close parallels with Imdad Ali, another mentally ill prisoner who was set to be executed at the end of last year. In Ali’s case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court commented that schizophrenia is a “recoverable disease” and it does not fall within the meaning of “mental disorder”. Ali’s case is still before the Supreme Court.

The World Psychiatric Association reiterated “the validity of schizophrenia as a diagnosis”, saying that it is accepted by “mental health professionals the world over”.

“Pakistan’s authorities must listen to this warning from psychiatrists around the world and confirm once and for all that it is wrong to execute mentally ill prisoners such as Khizar Hayat and Imdad Ali. It would be outrageous for judges not to extend Khizar’s stay of execution on Monday while the Supreme Court is still deciding how to deal with mentally ill death row inmates.”
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve

More on the death penalty and mental illness

It is widely accepted that the execution of mentally ill individuals is unacceptable and a clear violation of international standards. Both international and domestic law in many countries around the world prohibit the execution of people with mental illness.

There is little data on exactly how many people suffering from severe mental health problems are facing the death penalty, but there are examples all over the world of such cases, including many that Reprieve has worked on in the US, China, Pakistan, and Malawi.

Read more…