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Child Bride's Wrongful Conviction Suit Could Alter a Nation

Rani Bibi urging Pakistan to compensate victims of miscarriages of justice, like herself
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2020 12:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A child bride wrongfully convicted of killing her husband—a crime for which she spent 19 years behind bars—is suing the Pakistani authorities she says are responsible for "ruining" her youth. Rani Babi was only 14 when she was sentenced to life for the murder of her husband, who was killed with a shovel and buried. She was jailed along with her father, who died behind bars, and her brother and a cousin, both of whom were released. While there was "no evidence at all" to tie Bibi to the crime, the Guardian reports she wasn't acquitted until 2017. A Lahore high court judge last year acknowledged Bibi, now 36 and remarried, had been "left to languish in the jail solely due to [the] lackluster attitude of the jail authorities," who improperly handled her appeal.

But he added "this court feels helpless in compensating her" as Pakistan has no framework for responding to wrongful convictions. That's something Bibi and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights are now urging the government to adopt. After all, Pakistan is a signatory of a 1966 UN treaty guaranteeing compensation to victims like Bibi, per the National. But as one Islamabad lawyer tells the Guardian, "Pakistani courts have been reluctant to enforce for fear that the sheer number of wrongful convictions every year may result in ... thousands of victims demanding compensation." Indeed, a 2019 study by the foundation showed 78% of death sentences reviewed by Pakistan's Supreme Court were overturned. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)

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