Pakistan has hanged 200 people since December, when a massacre by militants at a school in the city of Peshawar prompted the government to lift a de facto ban on capital punishment.
Only Iran and China have executed more people, says human rights group, Amnesty International.
“Shafqat Hussain was this morning executed in Pakistan, despite widespread calls, both within and outside the country, for a stay,” said legal aid group Justice Project Pakistan, which was representing Hussain.
Pakistani law does not allow the execution of someone arrested as a juvenile. State prosecutors said Hussain was an adult, working as a watchman, when he was arrested. Lawyers for Hussain said school records showed he was 17 in 2004, when, they said, he was burnt with cigarettes and had fingernails removed until he confessed to killing a child. His family have said he was 14; lawyers said the family did not keep records regarding Hussain’s birth.
David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s South Asia research director, said the execution marked a “deeply sad day for Pakistan. A man whose age remains disputed, and whose conviction was built around torture, has now paid with his life,” he said.
Police denied that Hussain had been tortured. “A competent court has gone through Hussain’s case at length and torture allegations were never proved,” said police spokesman Qamar Zaib Satti.
Human rights groups say many convictions in Pakistan are unreliable. Lawyers say the justice system is deeply flawed and few police are trained to conduct investigations. Defence lawyers, appointed by courts for those too poor to pay, often do not show up and accusations of confessions extracted through torture are common.
Hussain’s family says that is what happened to him.
“There are cigarette burns on his shoulder,” his brother, Manzoor, told Reuters the day before Hussain was hanged. “They also burnt his ankles with a heated rod. Those scars are still there.”
Their mother said the family was too poor to pay the 30,000 rupees (€270) a private lawyer demanded to fight the case. She could only afford one trip to visit her son, and did not see him before he died.