Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel

Australia must help get Shafqat and Shagufta off death row in Pakistan

Amnesty International holds grave concerns for Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar, a Christian couple who were convicted of ‘blasphemy’ in Pakistan and sentenced to  death in 2014. They have been in prison for the better part of eight years waiting for their appeal hearing, when they should not be in jail in the first place.

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. He should not be detained in the first place, and if he is not going to be released, prison authorities must ensure provision of adequate health care whether it is available inside or outside the prison.

In our report, As Good as Dead: The Impact of the Blasphemy Law in Pakistan, Amnesty International shows that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws enable abuse and violate Pakistan’s international legal obligations to respect and protect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief and of opinion and expression.

The report also showed how the laws have been used to target some of the most vulnerable people in society, including members of religious minorities. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that “the majority of blasphemy cases are based on false accusations” and are driven by ulterior motives. Amnesty International has found that such motives are rarely scrutinized by the authorities and can vary, from professional rivalry, to personal or religious disputes, to seeking economic gain.

Amnesty International Australia has written to the Australian government, asking Foreign Minister Marise Payne to urge the Pakistani government to:

  • immediately and unconditionally release Shafqat and Shagufta and ensure that they and their lawyers are provided with adequate security upon their release
  • grant Shafqat prompt, regular and unrestricted access to adequate health care, as necessary
  • repeal the blasphemy laws, and
  • abolish the use of the death penalty.
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Joel MacKay is a campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.