Plight of mentally ill inmates on death row discussed

KARACHI: Earlier this year many gaped in horror as the Supreme Court ruled that “schizophrenia is not a mental illness” and could be cured. The judgement came after the top court rejected the plea of Imdad Ali, a schizophrenic convicted of murder in 2001.

To discuss this case – because many more are to follow since the state lifted the moratorium on the death penalty last year – a talk titled ‘The Imdad Ali Case and Emergent Conversations vis-à-vis Capital Punishment’ was held at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday.

 Story of Imdad Ali

Sarah Belal, who heads the Justice Project Pakistan and is also handling Ali’s case in court, said Ali had spent almost 14 years on death row since his conviction. But it was revealed in 2012 that he was schizophrenic, and since then his condition has not improved, rather he had to be shifted to a hospital the same year for treatment. Recent reports claimed that he displayed psychotic symptoms and his case was later dubbed as “treatment-resistant”.

Sarah said Ali’s case raised an alarm when, despite efforts from multiple bodies, his final appeal was dismissed by the court a few months ago because the court rejected the fact that schizophrenia is a mental illness. Following an uproar, the court ordered a medical board to investigate so the court could ascertain if it would be inappropriate to hang Ali.

She pointed out that previous findings of Ali’s case could not be found, but the prosecutor general was able to trace it from Multan, proving that he was indeed ill.

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