//India observes 'World Day Against the Death Penalty'

India observes 'World Day Against the Death Penalty'

New Delhi, Oct 10,

Image Banners saying 'Abolish Death Penalty' were hung across rivers and candle light vigils were held in cities as human rights activists observed the 'World Day Against the Death Penalty' in the country by calling for a world without executions. An inter-college seminar was held in Bangalore while activists organized candle light vigils in cities like Vijayawada, Kozhikode, Mumbai, Dhanbad, Nagpur and Hyderabad to mark the day, which is organized by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

The day was organized in the country in the backdrop of the intense debate for and against the mercy petition filed by the family of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru, who is awaiting execution in Tihar Jail.

"Urgent action is needed to end the era of capital punishment, even in cases of terrorism," Soumya Bhaumik, human rights education coordinator for Amnesty International India, told UNI.

Amnesty members organized seminars and debates and distributed leaflets in 35 cities across the country to seek an end to what they call 'an extreme violation of the right to life'.

Amnesty and 52 other organizations making the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty say several countries are failing to meet judicial standards required by the international community when using capital punishment.

"It is necessary for the Indian public and the Indian power structure to consider early abolition of the death penalty in the country," said Ravi Nair, executive director of the Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation Center.

The 'rarest of rare' doctrine enunciated by the Supreme Court has been rendered 'meaningless' as the number of offenses attracting the death penalty in India have increased alarmingly since then, said Nair, who dismissed the argument that capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crimes.

"There is no study, government or non-government, available in India or anywhere else in the world that the death penalty has been a deterrent to occurrences of any serious crime," Nair said.

The day was also marked by the launch of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, which will campaign for respecting human rights by Asian countries. Activists say that to take a human life after appallingly low standards of justice makes the case for the abolition of death penalty all the more compelling and urgent. 

Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), today petitioned the President, seeking abolition of death penalty. The party also held a demonstration to mark World Day Against Death Penalty. A memorandum to the President said: "We are conscious of your humane nature and your strong advice given last year to the Government of India to examine all aspects of capital punishment in Parliament, which unfortunately the government has not done".

The SAD (A) said this year's campaign also coincided with the launch of the Anti-Death Penalty Network an initiative by Amnesty International to take action against death penalty in India, South Korea and Japan, among other countries in the region. More than 111 countries had abolished death penalty, including the Philippines which did so in June. To give a message to the world that India was serious about its world image, India should join the ranks of these countries.

It said in the case of Prof. Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar and Mohammad Afzal, the courts had dwelt upon extraneous law and order and political considerations, which had happened almost 10 years after the crime to affirm death sentences.

Prof. Davinder Pal Singh, was sentenced on the basis of a confession, extracted under police duress. The Supreme court only through a 2-1 split judgement was barely able to affirm this death sentence. Hanging a person on the basis of a split judgement, wherein, the presiding judge has held the person totally innocent, is unprecedented in the annals of criminal jurisprudence, not only in India, but, across the world.

The SAD (A) said there were around 50 persons on the death row across the country, of which 16 were in Punjab.

It listed arguments against death penalty, saying that death penalty was a failure of justice and a cruel and degrading punishment that violated the right to life.

The EU will step up an international campaign to convince countries to abolish the use of the death penalty, officials said. EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini said it was “very important to persuade and convince'' countries still using capital punishment to stop the practice.

“The administration of state killing via the judicial system serves no useful purpose in preventing crime but can have a brutalizing effect on societies that inflict it,'' he said. “There is a very important international effort, which is needed to eradicate and to fight for the abolition of the death penalty in the world.''                   
World Day Against the Death Penalty (10 October 2006)

On 10 October 2003, the first World Day Against the Death Penalty took place. This event was launched by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which gathers international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Bar Associations, Unions and local governments from all over the world. Established by organisations who participated in the first international Congress against the death penalty (Strasbourg, 2001), the Coalition aims at encouraging the establishment of national coalitions, the organisation of common initiatives and the coordination of international lobbying efforts to sensitize states that still maintain the death penalty. This year's theme, "The Death Penalty: a Failure of Justice", will highlight the failures of the systems that administer capital punishment, such as the execution of innocent people, discrimination and unfair trials.

Useful Links

World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty: Questions and Answers PDF file

International treaties to abolish the death penalty:
Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Aiming at the Abolition of the Death Penalty (1989)
Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights (1983)
Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights (2002)
Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty (1990)

Council of Europe Theme File on Death Penalty

Amnesty International Website Against the Death Penalty

Amnesty International-USA's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty in the United States (Human Rights Watch)

Death Penalty Information Center (USA)

International Death Penalty Abolition Day (10 October)