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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rs. 60,000 for a HC appeal - Beena Sarwar

We need judicial reforms across the board Beena Sarwar

Faisal Siddiqi, a young advocate at the Sindh High Court in Karachi who often takes on pro bono cases, told me that those who are awarded capital punishment are usually "the poorest of the poor." Most of them are illiterate and have no resources or support. Along with the HRCP's Javed Burki, a grizzled older advocate, Faisal tries to help condemned prisoners in Karachi Central Prison. "In death penalty cases, the absence of an effective private counsel appears to be the difference between whether the death penalty is confirmed or set aside. Prisoners are condemned 'not for the worst crime but for the worst lawyer,'" he says, quoting a 1994 Yale Law Review study.

"Poor people lack access to competent counsel at both the trial and appellate stages," according to Human Rights Watch. "According to one study conducted in 2002, 71 percent of condemned prisoners in the NWFP were uneducated and over half (51 percent) had a monthly income below Rs 4,000 ($50 USD). The average fee for an appeal to the High Court in murder cases is around Rs 60,000 (about $900 USD). This creates an unequal system of justice, in which those with financial or political resources are able to obtain better legal services and avoid the death penalty."


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