LAHORE: Justice Project Pakistan filed a petition on behalf of death row prisoner Khizar Hayat, calling for the 56-year-old to be shifted to a secure mental health treatment facility, based on his extensive documented history of treatment-resistant schizophrenia. The Lahore High Court asked jail authorities about Khizar’s current mental state. The Medical Officer stated that several boards have found him to be schizophrenic, suffering from the debilitating psychiatric disorder. His next hearing has been scheduled for April 12. Jail authorities, psychiatric experts and a court-sanctioned examination at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health in July 2016 have all unanimously concluded that Khizar suffers from psychosis and schizophrenia. His lawyers have repeatedly recommended that Khizar be shifted to a secure mental health facility where he can receive the treatment he so badly needs. Failing to shift him in the face of such overwhelming evidence of his mental illness is a grave violation of his rights under Pakistan’s own laws and international legal commitments under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Sentenced to death in 2003 over a shooting of a fellow police officer, Khizar has spent nearly 15 years on death row. He suffers manic episodes, speaking loudly and uncontrollably. In an overcrowded cell, this behavior can aggravate already frustrated prisoners. Khizar has landed in the jail hospital several times, with often near-fatal head injuries. His injuries were so grave, that in 2009, the jail authorities once preemptively ordered an autopsy for him. To prevent future attacks, Khizar has been kept in solitary confinement since 2012. This has only worsened his condition, and increases the danger of him hurting himself. Khizar was first diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 2008 by jail medical authorities. He suffers from delusions and has to be heavily medicated. He has no idea how long he has been in jail, does not know why he is on death row, and believes that the medication he is taking are anti-malarial pills. In 2010, the jail medical officer recommended that Khizar needs specialized treatment and should be shifted to the psychiatric facility. This was never done. Mentally ill defendants like Muhammad Saleem and Imdad Ali repeatedly slip through the cracks in Pakistan’s criminal justice system. The lack of mental health treatment and training in the criminal justice system, as well as in Pakistan generally, means that many individuals never even get diagnosed. In fact, for many mentally ill people, their first contact with a mental health professional is in jail. Khizar’s case offers an opportunity to our criminal justice system to address this lacuna in our law. The SC itself is cognizant of this, with Hon. Justice Umar Ata Bandial stating in May last year, that it would “be unfair to punish the mentally ill.” Rimmel Mohydin, Spokesperson, Justice Project Pakistan adds: “Khizar has stopped showing signs of improvement from the medication prescribed by jail authorities that are not equipped to handle a treatment-resistant case of schizophrenia like his. He is indubitably of unsound mind, and has been for the past 10 years. He must be shifted to a mental health facility where he can receive the treatment he so badly needs.” Published in Daily Times, March 28th 2018.