[Reader-list] Amnesty Against Death Penalty

shohini shohini at giasdl01.vsnl.net.in
Thu Dec 19 22:20:45 IST 2002


AI Index:      ASA 20/024/2002    (Public)
News Service No:   238
19 December 2002

        India: The cause of justice is not served by judicial murder

Amnesty International is dismayed at the death sentences handed down to
three people accused of the 13 December 2001 attack on the Indian

   "The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate
cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment," Amnesty International said today.

   "We oppose the death penalty unconditionally, whether it is imposed on
alleged criminals or on so-called terrorists," the international human
rights organization added.

 The death penalty is a harsh punishment, but is not harsh on crime.  A
survey conducted for the United Nations, concluded: "...research has failed
to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect
than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The
evidence as a whole still gives no positive support to the deterrent

   A former Chief Justice of India, P.N. Bhagwati observed: "There are no
objective standards regulating the imposition of the death penalty. Life is
too precious a thing to be submitted to the subjective decision of a

   "The risk of executing innocent people is increased when international
fair trial standards have not been implemented. In the present case, we are
concerned that the trial of Abdul Rehman Geelani and two other men may have
failed to meet international standards for fair trial," Amnesty
International said.
      The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) -- the legislation under which
the three men were charged and tried for conspiracy and waging war against
India --  falls considerably short of international fair trial standards.

   Amnesty International acknowledges that the Indian government has the
right and the obligation to ensure law and order and to protect citizens
from violent crime. However, in the attempt to curb "terrorism",
governments must not relegate human rights protection to second place.
Security concerns must not override respect for human rights.

   Media coverage of the trial has abused the defendants' right to a fair
trial, as it has been extremely prejudicial. On the anniversary of the
attack, and only three days before the designated POTA trial court
announced its verdict, a private television channel screened a film which
was exclusively based on the premise that the defendants were guilty of the
charges made against them. Amnesty International believes that the
government of India took insufficient care in ensuring that the defendants'
right to be presumed innocent, the most basic aspect of the right to a fair
trial, was respected.


In a suicide attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001, nine
people were killed and 16 injured. Four people, Mohammad Afzal, Shaukat
Hussain, his wife Najot Sandhu, and Abdul Rehman Geelani were arrested and
tried for various offences under the Indian Penal Code, POTA, the Arms Act
and the Explosive Substances Act. On 16 December the three men were
convicted of waging war against India and attempting to kill politicians in
the parliament building. On 18 December they were sentenced to death. Najor
Sandhu was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for concealing the plot.

   Before the trial started, Amnesty International expressed concern
regarding the right to fair trial of the four accused in an Open Letter to
the Union Law Minister.

   More than half the countries of the world have abolished the death
penalty in law and many others have abolished it in practice. This
worldwide trend is reflected in the statutes of the International Criminal
Court, the Yugoslavia and the Rwanda Criminal Tribunals, which completely
reject the death penalty  including for crimes against humanity and
genocide. The right to life is an inalienable human right--accorded equally
to every individual regardless of their identity or actions.

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in
London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW.  web:

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org



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