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An open letter to the President of India: G. Ananthapadmanabhan

December 15, 2012

Sri Pranab Mukherjee
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi – 110 004.
India

12 December 2012

Subject: Open letter regarding the resumption of executions in India

Dear President,

I am writing on behalf of Amnesty International regarding the recent resumption of executions in India after eight years, to urge the Indian authorities to immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Ajmal Kasab was executed on the 21 November of this year. He had committed grave and serious offences, and Amnesty International has consistently expressed its sympathies and condolence to the victims of his actions and their families. However, by executing him, the Indian state has violated the internationally recognized right to life and has signalled a step away from the regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty.

As of today, 140 countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Most recently, Mongolia became the 140th country to join this group by becoming a state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, on 13 March 2012. In the Asia-Pacific region, 17 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, 10 are abolitionist in practice and one – Fiji – uses the death penalty only for exceptional military crimes.

Amnesty International is concerned about the manner in which Indian authorities carried out Ajmal Kasab’s execution on 21 November 2012. A notification by the 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 the possibility of seeking a review of your 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.

This practice is in contrast to how previous executions have been carried out in India over the past 15 years. Information regarding the executions of Dhananjoy Chatterjee (2004), and Shankar (1995), for example, was accessible to the public in advance of the execution.

Transparency on the use of the death penalty is among the 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”.

Amnesty International finds it disappointing that the Indian State has chosen to carry out Ajmal Kasab’s execution in this manner, especially as secrecy was not the practice in execution in the country.

Amnesty International welcomes the recent commutation of Atbir’s death sentence on 15 November 2012. The petition for mercy of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar is, however, still pending before you. Fourteen former judges recently petitioned the President to commute 13 death sentences that they believe were wrongly imposed. The case of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar, sentenced to death for murdering two members of his family in 2005, was one of the cases identified by the judges.

Amnesty International is also concerned about a further nine petitions for mercy involving 14 individuals that have been sent to the 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 10 December 2012, the Indian Minister of Home Affairs told reporters that he will review the petitions before him after the end of the winter session of Parliament. One of these petitions concerns Mohammad Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death for his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. Mohammad Afzal Guru was tried by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Amnesty International has found that these trials did not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International opposes the 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.

The desirability of the abolition of the death penalty has long been recognized in international law and standards. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a State Party and which allows for the use of the death penalty under certain circumstances, clearly states in Article 6.6 that no provision in Article 6 should be invoked “to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment.”

The UN Human Rights Committee, the expert body established under the ICCPR to monitor its implementation, has said in its General Comment no. 6 of 30 April 1982 that Article 6 of the ICCPR “refers generally to abolition in terms which strongly suggest that abolition is desirable.” The Committee concluded that “all measures of abolition should be considered as progress in the enjoyment of the right to life.” As a state party to the ICCPR, India has a legal obligation to comply with the provisions of the treaty.

The use of the 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 you 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;
  • Wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, 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.

Yours sincerely,

G. Ananthapadmanabhan

Chief Executive

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2012 12:19 AM

    Reblogged this on Law or Logic.

  2. malaydeb permalink
    December 16, 2012 1:36 AM

    You have addressed the concerns of every one from the condemned to the members of the public and every one in between, except the near and dear ones of the victims. I hope its just an inadvertent oversight.

    • Sprinkle permalink
      December 17, 2012 10:09 AM

      “Amnesty International has consistently expressed its sympathies and condolence to the victims of his actions and their families”.

  3. Harsh Kumar permalink
    December 16, 2012 3:19 PM

    Firstly, thanks for the vast research and effort Amnesty International have taken for the rights of human beings across the globe. It is organizations such as Amnesty International which stand for the rights of individual common man whenever any excesses (deliberate or inadvertent) by state machinery are faced by common population. However, in their zeal to be ‘champions of liberty’ and ‘individual rights’ such organizations are liable to be trapped in such ‘permissive’ dogma like ‘abolition of capital punishment’.
    The harsh reality of life is ‘killing’ by one living organism of another organism. Human beings are no different. Overwhelmed by greed, hatred, revenge etc humans have committed crime of ‘killing’ since time immemorial. But, when the danger to social life at large by way of such killings is very grave and ‘sense of justice’ warrants some ‘lesson’ to perpetrator of such an act of violence, we DO NEED capital punishment. If we really consider abolishing capital punishment we should also give a serious thought to notion ‘Are we not becoming permissive to a level of absurdity?’ One inherent message in hollywood movie ‘demolition man’ is towards occurrence of this very dilemma in a ‘soft state’ in a post modern scenario.

  4. Ramesh Narendrarai Desai permalink
    December 16, 2012 8:56 PM

    Executions should be an exception rather than the rule.

  5. Vijay Kashyap permalink
    December 17, 2012 12:15 AM

    On 27 March 2012, an explosion blamed on Maoists killed 15 Indian policemen in Maharashtra.

    During May 2011, Naxalites killed and dismembered ten policemen, including one senior officer in the Gariyaband, Chhattisgarh area on the border with Orissa.[66] In June, the total fatalities of both the police and the paramilitary was 43.[67]

    On 21 July 2011, Maoist rebels in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh blew up a bridge, killing four people and wounding five others.

    2010

    During February the Silda camp attack killed 24 paramilitary personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles in an operation the guerillas stated was the beginning of “Operation Peace Hunt”, the Maoist answer to the government “Operation Green Hunt” that was recently launched against them.[51] According to Crisis Watch and various news sources, between 500 and 600 people were killed this year. Of those killed, approximately 366 were civilians, 188 were government troops (including police) and 27 were Naxalites. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal and government sources, over 1,000 deaths occurred in the conflict this year. This includes 277 security forces, 277 Naxalites, and more than 600 civilian.[48]

    On 6 April, Naxalite rebels killed 76, consisting of 74 paramilitary personnel of the CPRF and two policemen. Fifty others were wounded in the series of attacks on security convoys in Dantewada district in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh.[52] The attack resulted in the biggest loss of life security forces have suffered since launching a large-scale offensive against the rebels.[52] On 17 May, a Naxalite landmine destroyed a bus in Dantewada district, killing up to 44 people including several Special Police Officers (SPOs) and civilians.[53]

    On 28 May the derailment of a Kolkata–Mumbai night train killed at least 150 persons. Maoists were responsible for the sabotage which caused the disaster.[54]

    On 29 June, at least 26 policemen are killed in a Maoist attack in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.[55]

    On 29 August, a joint team of BSF and district police was attacked by the rebels in Bhuski village (Chhattisgarh) under Durg Kondal police station in the district while they were conducting routine search operations in the wee hours. Following the attack, the forces retaliated and in the action they lost five security personnel, including three BSF jawans.[56]

    On 29 and 30 August, rebels ambushed a joint paramilitary-police team in Bihar, killing 10, wounding 10 more, taking 4 prisoners and robbing more than 35 automatic rifles from the state forces.[57][58] The Naxalites later freed 3 of the policemen after Naxal leader Kishenji met with worried family members.[59]

    On 12 September, Naxalites killed 3 policemen and took 4 more hostage in an ambush in Chhattisgarh. The 4 policemen were later released without conditions after Naxal leaders listened to the appeals of family members. The freed policemen also promised the Naxals to never take up arms against the insurgency again.[60][61]

    On 5 October, rebels killed 4 Police officers as they were on their way to a market in Maharashtra.[62]

    On 7 October, Naxalites attempted derailment of Triveni express, a train of Singrauli-Bareilly route, by removing 4 fishplates and 42 sleeper clips.[63][64]

    On 8 October, Naxalites triggered a landmine in the border area between Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. The attack killed 3 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans, wounded 2 more and destroyed a military jeep.[65]

    So much for the love for life!

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