24 December 2009 A United Nations human rights expert today urged China to cancel the scheduled execution of a man convicted of drug trafficking, saying there are strong signs that he suffers from mental illness and that this was not taken into account during sentencing.
Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, spoke out after Akmal Shaikh, a British national, earlier this week lost his final appeal against the death penalty.
Media reports state that Mr. Shaikh was arrested in 2007 in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in western China after being found to be in possession of four kilograms of heroin. Campaigners have said he suffers from mental illness.
“Both Chinese and international law clearly indicate that a person who committed a crime while suffering from significant mental illness should not be subjected to the death penalty,” Mr. Alston said in a statement to the press issued in Geneva.
The Special Rapporteur said China has recently taken “important steps” to ensure that the death penalty is carried out in line with applicable international standards.
“Executing a mentally ill man would be a major step backwards for China and I very much hope that the Government will grant clemency in this case.”
He also noted that he had never received a reply to his request in October for the Government to review the decision by Chinese judicial authorities to deny Mr. Shaikh a mental health evaluation.
Mr. Alston, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, serves in an independent and unpaid capacity.
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