CSF for Death Penalty Moratorium. Civil Society memos President

February 16, 2013 by  
Filed under New Delhi, newsletter-india

CSF wants moratorium on death penalty.
Over 200 eminent civil society members write to President on secretive execution of Afzal Guru

ExecutionNew Delhi, February 14, 2013: A letter written to the President of India and signed by over 200 academics, writers, artists and filmmakers, have in strong words condemned the rejection of Afzal Guru’s mercy petition and the manner in which he was hastily executed denying him the legal rights of judicial review that were available to him.

The eminent members of the civil society that includes Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, senior advocate Vrinda Grover, senior journalist Jawed Naqvi, Ram Puniyani, All India Secular forum, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor Milli Gazette, Nandini Sundar, Professor, Department of Sociology, DU, Anusha Rizvi, film-maker and Mukul Kesavan, writer and historian, among others, have termed it “tragic that the questions about timing and selectivity of Afzal’s hanging are sought to be dispelled by rejecting mercy petitions of others as well.”

Four more mercy petitions of the aides of Veerappan have been rejected, in days following the execution of Afza Guru. The eminent citizens have demanded the abolition of the capital punishment, which according them should have “no place in a civilized society.”

The eminent members of the civil society noted, “We believe that you made a grave error in rejecting the mercy petition. If you had perused the trial records and the lengthy documentation put together over the years by lawyers and civil rights activists, or even the Supreme Court judgement which sentenced Afzal to death, you would have known, that his guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt.”

They also highlighted the fact that his family was not duly informed, as mandated by the law and sought explanation on “such urgency in executing Afzal before those others whose mercy petitions your office has earlier rejected.”

Below is the full text of the letter

To,
The Hon’ble President of India

Respected Sir,

We write to you in deep anguish, despair but in outrage as well. Afzal Guru was hanged on Saturday (9th February 2013) in secrecy. We have been told – after the hanging – that you rejected the mercy petition filed by Guru’s wife Tabassum, on 3rd February. We believe that you made a grave error in rejecting the mercy petition. If you had perused the trial records and the lengthy documentation put together over the years by lawyers and civil rights activists, or even the Supreme Court judgement which sentenced Afzal to death, you would have known, that his guilt was never established beyond reasonable doubt. The fact that the Court appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) a lawyer in whom Afzal had expressed no faith; the fact that he went legally unrepresented from the time of his arrest till his so-called confession, the fact that the court asked him to either accept the lawyer appointed by the Court or cross examine the witness himself should surely have concerned you while considering his mercy petition.

His personal history of being a surrendered militant, of harassment and torture at the hands of STF, as well as his statement in open court that he had indeed helped Mohammad, one of the attackers on the Parliament, find a house and obtain a car, the same car used in the attack, but at the orders of his STF handlers, should have spurred a full-scale investigation into the allegations. The citizens of this country do not know if one was ordered at all.

It is also a fact that the much-hyped investigation of the Parliament attack case and its prosecution resulted in two full acquittals and conviction of another for concealing knowledge of the crime. It was almost as if there was a need to at least ensure one death sentence so that the faith of the public / society in the efficacy of the prosecution and the judiciary and the Legislature which represented the ‘State” would not be shaken. Surely this was not a case where even the government of the day was convinced of the guilt of Afzal; but treated it like a case that was far too important for all accused to be acquitted. We must remind you sir that the Supreme Court threw out the confessions of both Afzal and Shaukat which obviously indicated that the investigation had been far from fair.

As in life, Afzal Guru was denied his legal rights in his death. Sir, every convict whose mercy petition has been rejected by the President, is entitled yet to a last resort. The convict has the constitutional right to file a judicial review or a delay petition, in the High Court and the Supreme Court, to seek commutation of the death sentence. There exists veritable case law to support a condemned convict’s right to appeal on grounds that pendency of death penalty for years causes suffering and torturous anxiety. We only cite the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which in 1988 held that “Undue long delay in execution of the sentence of death will entitle the condemned person to approach this Court under Article 32”.

Under the law, Afzal Guru may have lived still despite your rejection of the mercy petition, had he, his family and lawyers been informed of the rejection of the mercy petition. But perhaps fearing precisely this, the state whose head you are, Sir, chose to execute him in secrecy. The killing was not a fait accompli– a natural culmination of the course of law, as it is being made out to be by the government and the media. In fact, Afzal Guru was cynically, callously and calculatedly denied access to judicial remedy that was due to him. His family was not informed, not only because our state has become unrecognizably cruel—which it has, but also because it did not want Afzal Guru to exercise his legal rights and possibly avert the execution. Informing the wife that her mercy petition had been rejected through speed post is a joke. What the state has done is not simply kill a convict. It has committed a fraud on the people by invalidating an entire body of jurisprudence and a category of rights inhering in our Constitution.

And finally, the Indian state must explain why it displayed such urgency in executing Afzal before those others whose mercy petitions your office has earlier rejected.

Catholic forum calls for moratorium on death penalty

The forum said Christians are against death penalty for well-known religious reasons, as it defends the sanctity of life.

Death PenaltyMumbai, February 13, 2013: In the wake of the execution of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, a Catholic forum has called for a moratorium on the death penalty in the country.

“India should consider a moratorium against all executions, pending a review and a comprehensive review of the death penalty,” said Joseph Dias, president of Catholic Secular Forum (CSF).

Dias said that in a recent vote at the UN General Assembly, 110 countries called for the abolition of the death penalty, while India was among the 39 countries that sustained it.

According to the UN, about 150 countries have abolished the death penalty or have established a moratorium, he said.

Dias said that Christians are against death penalty for well-known religious reasons, as it defends the sanctity of life.

CSF said that death penalty does not necessarily heal the wounds of the victims or their families and it is an inhumane penalty, which makes society less civil and more cruel.

Studies indicate that life imprisonment has major value as a deterrent; the death penalty, finally, also represents a waste of resources, which wastes the courts time and energy and worsens the criminal justice system, it said.

Guru, who was the mastermind of the parliament attack, was executed in the Tihar jail on Feb. 9 after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy petition.

His body was buried in the jail premises.

– agenzia fides

 

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