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Sunday, May 23, 1999 Published at 04:56 GMT 05:56 UK

World: South Asia

Protest over children on death row

Pakistan is accused of disregarding children's rights

Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Pakistan to abolish the death penalty for children.

About 50 children are believed to be on death row in the country's jails, and Amnesty has appealed for them to be freed.

Spokesman Menno Kamminga, on a visit to Islamabad, said: "For a state to kill children ... is barbaric and blatant disregard of the children's right."

He called on Pakistan to adhere to its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specifically protects children from the death sentence.

Arrest slammed

Amnesty says the last child executed in Pakistan, two years ago, after being convicted of murder, was aged 13 or 14.

Mr Kamminga also criticized the arrest of 13-year-old Mohammad Saleem, a suspect in the killing of three policemen.

In December 1998, Saleem was sentenced to death by a special military court, but he was later acquitted.

Child's fear

But Saleem was arrested again on 13 May and is being tried again for the same crime - this time in a special anti-terrorist court.

"Pakistan's cruel treatment of Mohammad Saleem ... also flies in the face of its international obligations and violates the country's own constitution," the Amnesty report said.

"Saleem's testimony reveals the fear, loneliness and bewilderment that all children in his position go through when they are subjected to procedures they do not understand," Kamminga said.

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