Help us fight inequalities and injustices by signing the petition below:
It is with immense joy that ABUNA announces the decision of the Superior Court of Lahore, Pakistan, AGAINST yesterday afternoon, Thursday, June 3, 2021, the Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, from the accusations of blasphemy and the conviction of the death penalty, ordering the immediate release of the couple.
Jailed since 2013 for alleged "blasphemous" texts, Shafqat and Shagufta spent nearly eight years on death row. (To understand more about the case see our page).
In April of this year, the European Parliament warned Pakistan of the "alarming" increase in blasphemy charges, expressing particular concern over the case of Shafqat and Shagufta. Amnesty International also issued a warning that "Shafqat health was rapidly deteriorating". In May ABUNA called Christians in Brazil to pray and sign a petition to the Pakistani government demanding justice and freedom.
Today we were positively surprised by the court's decision, which reinforces our conviction to pray and do what we can for the well-being of our persecuted brothers. We are honored to be a part of this story. Glory to God! Celebrate with us!
At the same time, we know that there is still work to be done, as almost a decade of imprisonment on death row certainly caused trauma to the couple and their 4 children. Furthermore, the acquittal does not guarantee that they are out of harm's way, as the radicals will seek to take “justice” into their own hands.
The best option for them indeed is to seek asylum abroad. This being the case, ABUNA makes itself available to welcome the couple, if the Brazilian authorities so approve.
Understand the case:
PRISONER'S HEALTH IN THE HALL OF DEATH IN SERIOUS DECLINE
The health of Shafqat Emmanuel, sentenced to death by hanging, along with his wife Shagufta Kausar, is rapidly deteriorating. Shafqat's lower body is paralyzed, which means he relies on the prison guards' help to move, and they are not always available. He has multiple bedsores that, according to his lawyer, are not receiving adequate treatment, and his pain is getting worse every day. In March, his family reports, he was in a coma for three days and was not taken to hospital. The Christian couple was sentenced to death for sending "blasphemous" texts to a mosque cleric and has consistently denied all charges. Arrested in 2013, the couple was convicted and sentenced to death in April 2014.
TAKE AN ATTITUDE:
WRITE AN EMAIL APPEALING IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS TEMPLATE BELOW
Inspector General, Punjab Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig
Inspectorate General of Prisons, Punjab
Link Jail Road, Shadman
Tel: +92 4299200498
Dear Inspector General Mirza Shahid Saleem Baig,
I write to you to out of alarm for the sharp decline in the health of death row prisoner Shafqat Emmanuel. Shafqat is completely paralyzed from the waist down and must rely on prison guards to perform the most basic tasks like leaving his bed and using the bathroom. Furthermore, as per the application submitted by his lawyer to the Inspector General of Prisons in Punjab, he has painful bedsores and needs urgent health care.
Currently held in Central Jail, Faisalabad I find it alarming that in March, according to his family, Shafqat was in a coma for three days and yet was still not provided adequate medical care. Shafqat and his wife Shagufta Kausar, were convicted of “blasphemy” and sentenced to death in 2014 for allegedly sending “blasphemous” text messages to a mosque cleric.
The couple should not be in jail at all, let alone at risk of execution. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws do not meet human rights law and standards, they lack essential safeguards to minimize the risk of rights violations and illustrate the dangers faced by the country’s religious minorities. The urgency with which the injustices, in this case, must be remedied is heightened by Shafqat’s pain and lack of access to appropriate health care.
I find it highly distressing that a prisoner who needs urgent health care is not being shifted to the jail hospital. He should not be detained in the first place, and if he is not going to be released, prison authorities must ensure the provision of adequate health care whether it is available inside or outside the prison.
Therefore, I strongly urge you to grant Shafqat prompt, regular and unrestricted access to adequate health care as necessary. In addition to that, he and his wife Shagufta should be immediately and unconditionally released. I call for the couple and their lawyer to be provided with adequate security upon their release.
(COPY THE TEXT ABOVE - IN ENGLISH - PASTE IT TO YOUR EMAIL AND SEND TO: firstname.lastname@example.org)
According to a 2014 medical assessment, Shafqat was diagnosed as a paraplegic and suffered from severe bedsores. His lawyers say he never received adequate medical treatment for his injuries, some of which stemmed from a gunshot wound (unrelated to the events that led to his arrest and death sentence). Shafqat's family said he was in a coma for three days in March 2021 but was not transferred to an appropriate medical facility.
The right to the highest possible standard of physical and mental health, including preventive, curative, and palliative health, is enshrined in international human rights law and standards. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by Pakistan in 2008, stipulates the obligation under Article 12 to “respect, protect and fulfill the right of all to enjoy the highest possible standard of physical and mental health, including those who are imprisoned or detained”.
In addition to Shafqat's health, his death sentence makes the situation even more precarious. Pakistan's blasphemy laws are notoriously vague and carry heavy penalties. Based on evidence that does not meet the standard of proof of "beyond reasonable doubt", the accused could be sentenced to death. The blasphemy laws violate Pakistan's obligations to respect human rights and pave the way for other abuses, including threats of death and murders Judges are pressured and intimidated into convicting the accused so they don't become the next target Defense lawyers have already been murdered in court Witnesses and victims' families have gone into hiding.
When charges are brought under these laws, the police have the authority to arrest the alleged offender without justification and can begin their investigation without a judge's orders. Bowing to public pressure from angry mobs, including religious clerics and their supporters, they often refer cases to prosecutors without examining the evidence. And once someone is charged, bail can be denied, facing long and unfair trials.
The threat of violence accompanies many people accused of blasphemy, with groups or individuals taking justice into their own hands, threatening to kill the accused and others associated with them, including their lawyers, their family members, and members of their community.
A cloud of fear also hangs over those working in Pakistan's criminal justice system, preventing lawyers, police, prosecutors, and judges from carrying out their work effectively, impartially, and without fear. A worrying pattern of delay tactics in the trial of Shafqat and Shagufta appears to be emerging, were at their last two hearings - one scheduled for Feb 15, 2021, and no later than Feb 24 - the judges apologized to hear their appeal, claiming that the court's schedule for the day's agenda had ended. Amnesty International has documented that delays have been a common factor in several other cases of people accused of "blasphemy", with judges often suspected of employing these tactics out of reluctance to pass trials exonerating the accused. Trials of people accused of serious charges, including blasphemy, can take many years to complete in Pakistan's criminal justice system.
A report published in 2016 showed how Pakistan's blasphemy laws allow for abuses and violate international laws and legal obligations to respect and protect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and freedom of opinion and expression. It also showed how laws have been used to target some of society's most vulnerable people, including members of religious minorities. The Supreme Court of Pakistan recognized that "most blasphemies are based on false accusations" and are motivated by ulterior motives. It concluded that such motives are rarely examined by the authorities and can range from professional rivalry to personal or religious disputes, the search for economic gain.
ABUNA opposes the death penalty in all cases, without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; the guilt, innocence, or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the State to carry out the execution.
WRITE THIS PETITION PREFERRED IN ENGLISH AND SEND UP TO JUNE 12TH MAXIMUM.
With information from Amnesty International UK.