LAHORE // Pakistan on Wednesday executed a man who was 15 when he was sentenced to death for murder and whose lawyers say was tortured into confessing.
Aftab Bahadur was sentenced to death for killing three people in 1992 and human rights group Reprieve said two witnesses who implicated Bahadur had since recanted, saying they were tortured.
The case that has prompted concern among rights groups and the United Nations.
At the time, the death penalty could be passed on a 15-year-old, but the minimum age was raised to 18 in 2000.
Testimony obtained by torture is also inadmissible.
“Aftab Bahadur was hanged at district jail Lahore on Wednesday at 4.30am,” said a jail official in Lahore who declined to be named.
“Before the hanging, he was crying and saying he was innocent.”
The date of birth on Bahadur’s birth certificate and national identity card, June 30, 1977, is not disputed by authorities.
Exact birth records are not always kept in Pakistan, particularly for people from poor families like Hussain’s.
“Pakistan proceeded with Mr Bahadur’s execution despite his having been sentenced to death when he was a child - in violation of both international and Pakistani law,” Reprieve said.
Prime minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on the death penalty last year, a day after Pakistani Taliban gunmen attacked a school and killed 134 pupils and 19 adults.
The killings put pressure on the government to do more to tackle the militant insurgency.
In an essay written from jail and published before his hanging, Bahadur repeated his assertion that he was innocent.
“But I do not know whether that will make any difference,” he wrote. “I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark ... It would perhaps have been better not to have to think of what the police did to try to get me to confess falsely to this crime.”
Also on Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of another man, Shafqat Hussain, whom his lawyers say was a child when charged with murder and only confessed after being tortured.
A day earlier, Hussain was handed a reprieve just hours before he was to be executed – the fourth time his death penalty has been stayed.
The latest ruling clears another obstacle to Hussain’s hanging, though it was not immediately clear when a new death warrant would be issued.
Hussain’s age has proved difficult to determine. His supporters say he was 14 or 15 at the time of the killing but police insist he was over 20.
Critics say the country’s criminal justice system is marred by police torture and poor legal representation, meaning many of those now facing the gallows have not had a fair trial.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse