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Amnesty asks India to commute Guru’s death sentence #deathpenalty

BJP wants Afzal Guru hanged next

 

London, December 14 (KMS: The human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has expressed concern over the fate of mercy petitions including that of a Kashmir youth, Afzal Guru whose sentence, according to the , by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not conform with ’s obligations under international human rights law.

Chief Executive, G Anantha Padmanabhan in a letter to the Indian President, , on Thursday asked New Delhi to abolish death penalty and stop further executions after Ajmal Kasab and commute death sentences to imprisonments.

Referring to the execution of , the Amnesty chief executive said that “by executing him, the Indian government has violated the internationally recognized right to life and signalled a step away from the regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty.”

Anantha Padmanabhan said Amnesty is concerned about the manner in which Indian authorities carried out Kasab’s execution on 21 November, 2012. “A notification by Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, published on the same day, stated that you had rejected his petition for mercy on 5 November”.

“According to reports, Ajmal Kasab himself was only informed of this rejection on 12 November. It is unclear whether he was aware of possibility of seeking a review of the decision. Information about the rejection of the petition for mercy and the date of execution was not made available to the public until after the execution had been carried out. Authorities in India have made public claims that this lack of public announcement and secrecy surrounding the execution were to avoid intervention by human rights activists,” he said.

“Transparency on use of death penalty is among fundamental safeguards of due process that prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life. Making information public with regard to legislation providing for the death penalty as well as its implementation allows for an assessment of whether fair trial and other international standards are being respected. In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights called upon all states that still maintain the death penalty “to make available to the public information with regard to the imposition of the death penalty and to any scheduled execution,” the Amnesty official added.

“Amnesty is disappointing that the Indian State has chosen to carry out Ajmal Kasab’s execution in this manner,” he said.

“Amnesty is concerned about a further nine petitions for mercy involving 14 individuals that have been sent to the (Indian) Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration for a second time, which we understand is usual practice when there is a new minister in office. On December 10, 2012, Indian Home Minister told reporters he will review the petitions before him after the end of the winter session of Parliament. One of these petitions concerns Mohammad who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. Mohammad was tried by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Amnesty has found that these trials did not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said Amnesty opposes death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. “It opposes it as a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

He said the use of death penalty in India is riddled with systemic flaws. Of particular concern are: the broad definition of “terrorist acts” for which the death penalty can be imposed; insufficient safeguards on arrest; obstacles to confidential communication with counsel; insufficient independence of special courts from executive power; insufficient safeguards for the presumption of innocence; provisions for discretionary closed trials; sweeping provisions to keep secret the identity of witnesses; and limits on the right to review by a higher tribunal.

“On behalf of Amnesty International, I urge Indian president to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment Immediately halt plans to carry out further executions, and establish an official moratorium on executions as the first step to abolishing the death penalty,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, the government should respect the practice of promptly informing the individual, his/ her lawyers, his/ her family, of the decision, reasons for the decision, and proposed date of execution, as well as the public, of any scheduled execution.

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