ISLAMABAD: The National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) has taken up the case of Muhammad Iqbal, a juvenile offender and called for authorities from abstaining from issuing his execution warrants. Jail authorities had forwarded requests to issue his ‘black warrant’ to the Lahore High Court on Friday, June 30. Muhammad Iqbal was just 17 years old when convicted of a fatal shooting in Mandi Bahauddin in 1999. Suspecting he was a juvenile, the prosecution requested that an ossification test be conducted, the results of which confirmed his minority. This was recognised by the trial court in its judgment that stated: “…the age of the accused… at the time of the occurrence appears to be less than 18 years.” His death sentence was upheld by the LHC on March 20, 2002 and his appeal subsequently dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on September 11 the same year. “Both appellate courts maintained that he was a juvenile at the time of the crime, making Iqbal’s execution an even more brazen violation of Pakistan’s domestic and international legal commitments,” the statement said. A complaint was filed on Iqbal’s behalf by Justice Project Pakistan on June 23 before the NCHR, which held an urgent inquiry into the matter. Officials from the Home Department and Prison Department were present and a Letter of Proceedings has been issued to the Home Department Secretary, the Registrar of the LHC and the Anti-Terrorism Court, Gujranwala. The NCHR has expressed its serious concerns regarding the denial of appropriate relief to which Iqbal was entitled to under the JJSO and the Presidential Notification. The NCHR noted that the minor age of the petitioner was not given due consideration by the trial court on account of which his right to commutation of his death sentence remains unresolved. “As a result, the execution of Iqbal under these circumstances would result in violations of human rights,” it said. The NCHR advised that until a proper inquiry was held by the government, authorities must abstain from issuing his execution warrants, warning that hanging him would be a violation of Pakistan’s own laws. Iqbal’s trial was conducted two years before the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2000 was passed – which prohibits the execution of juveniles. After Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, the president of Pakistan issued Notification no F.8/41/2001-Ptns in 2001, granting remission to those juvenile offenders whose death sentences had been confirmed prior to the enactment of the JJSO on the basis of an inquiry into their juvenility. “In fact, Iqbal was listed as one of the prisoners that would benefit from the notification. Despite this, his mercy petition was rejected in March 2016 and he has been languishing on death row for well over half his life,” the statement said. “As Pakistan prepares to appear before the Human Rights Committee, the monitoring body of the ICCPR on July 11, the issuance of execution warrants for a juvenile offender, such as Muhammad Iqbal, will have a detrimental impact on the country’s performance,” the NCHR said. Sarah Belal, the JPP executive director said: “We welcome the intervention of the NCHR to prevent the wrongful execution of a juvenile offender. The Pakistan government has previously stated its commitment to enforce the prohibition against the execution of juveniles before the UN Child Rights Committee, and not issuing Iqbal’s warrant is the right step to that end.” Published in Daily Times, July 4th , 2017.