What is #SaveKhizarHayat all about?

Activists are demanding a stay over court's decision to execute mentally-ill prisoner

By Cutacut Editorial Team

KARACHI: A severely mentally-ill prisoner, Khizar Hayat, is scheduled for execution on January 15. Soon after the order of execution was issued by a Lahore sessions court, hashtag #savekhizarhayat started trending on Twitter. Human rights activists, lawyers and civil society are demanding a stay over the court’s decision on the basis that the Supreme Court has not yet fully evaluated the case of mentally ill prisoners and how cruel the decision is.

Who is Khizar Hayat?

Khizar Hayat is a former police constable convicted for murdering a fellow policeman in 2001. A trial court sentenced him to death in 2003. He has spent 16 years on death row, and has been in solitary confinement since 2012.

What kind of illness does he have?

Hayat was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2008 and was put in the jail’s section of mentally ill prisoners. 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, according to Samaa news.

Yet, he’s been denied the right to treatment at a mental health facility in all these years. Black warrants for Hayat’s execution have been issued previous in three occasions, according to Dawn – twice in 2015 and once in January 2017. In all three instances, a stay was granted at the last minute.

In a heart-rending account, his mother recounted how her son no longer recognises her when she visits him in jail. On worst days, he thinks of her as an enemy. “He will never know his children, who have grown into adults. He will never go to prayers with me,” she records her words in an article in Dawn.

Can mentally ill prisoners be executed?

According to Samaa Digital, Pakistan has signed international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit the execution of mentally ill prisoners. The country’s compliance with its human rights obligations comes into question especially in light of the recent recommendations by the Human Rights Committee. The Committee recommended after Pakistan’s first ever periodic review that, “No one with serious psychological or mental disabilities is executed or sentenced to death”.

How are Pakistanis reacting?

The order came out on Friday and people have been tweeting in support of Hayat, with the hash tag #SaveKhizarHayat. With three days to go, people are urging the government and the courts to do what they can in their capacity to stop the inhumane treatment of someone who’s mentally-ill.

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