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 Amnesty, by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International Chief Executive, G Anantha Padmanabhan in a letter to the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, 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 Ajmal Kasab, 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 Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. Mohammad Afzal Guru 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.

India: Vedanta’s human rights promises ‘meaningless and hollow’


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Amnesty International has accused the UK-registered mining company Vedanta of attempting to “gloss over” criticisms of its poor human rights record in the East Indian state of Orissa by publishing a “meaningless and hollow” report that puts forward the company’s own account of its operations there.

With the company staging its annual general meeting today (28 August) in London, Amnesty believes the “Vedanta’s Perspective” report is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operations in India as it seeks to expand them.

Amnesty International has responded with its own briefing, Vedanta’s Perspective Uncovered: Policies Cannot Mask Practices, accusing the company of ignoring the reality of the mining giant’s impact on the human rights of local communities in Orissa.

For example, Amnesty International reports that Vedanta has not disclosed relevant information to local communities – such as the impact of pollution caused by the company’s activities, and has not held meaningful public consultations.

“Our new briefing exposes the glaring gap between the company’s assertions and the reality on the ground,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme.

“New evidence from the communities in Orissa shows that changes announced by Vedanta have had little positive impact on the livelihoods, rights, and other concerns of the communities on the ground.

“Vedanta’s human rights record falls far short of international standards for businesses. It refuses to consult properly with communities affected by its operations and ignores the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“Vedanta’s report claims to put new information on its activities in the public domain, but it glosses over most of our findings. It also fails to take into account investigations by Indian regulatory bodies, as well as authorities such as the National Human Rights Commission which has investigated Vedanta’s operations in Orissa.”

Amnesty International also finds it disturbing that those opposed to the company’s operations have faced fabricated charges, resulting in their imprisonment with the effect of preventing others from exercising their right to protest peacefully and freely express their views.

Amnesty International is also concerned about evidence, uncovered during an ongoing inquiry by India’s National Human Rights Commission, showing that police have sought to promote the interests of the company both in the framing of false charges and in the suppression of dissent.

Additionally, there have been at least two instances when the police, using a local Maoist presence as an apparent pretext, have harassed representatives of international media and human rights organisations and told them not to travel to Lanjigarh and the Niyamgiri Hills.

Amnesty International reviewed Vedanta’s changes against four criteria based on the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles for businesses – and found that they failed on all four.

“The most revealing and meaningful indicators of whether Vedanta is making progress in addressing human rights issues must be based on what is happening, or not happening, on the ground in Lanjigarh and Niyamgiri,” said Truscott.

“Our detailed analysis shows little has changed. Vedanta may be making the right noises and have made a few changes, but the reality is that its new approach remains both meaningless and hollow. The company needs to go much further in demonstrating to its critics that its new approach will make a difference . Vedanta needs a reality check on human rights – and pressure from investors could help deliver this.”

On reports that Vedanta may have to temporarily shut down its Lanjigarh refinery for want of adequate bauxite supply from other sources, Truscott said: “This may be a short-term problem. What’s really at stake here is Vedanta’s human rights record.”

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