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India votes against moratorium

india Updated: Nov 18, 2007 20:46 IST

IANS
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India has voted against a moratorium on death penalty when a committee of the UN general assembly passed a resolution favouring it; according to the country office of the rights group Amnesty International (AI).

Friday's resolution calling for a global moratorium on executions was described by AI as "historic and a major step towards the abolition of the death penalty worldwide". It was adopted with 99 countries in favour, 52 against and 33 abstentions.

India was one of the 52 countries that voted against the resolution, AI spokesman Joe Athialy said in New Delhi on Sunday, with the government ignoring a letter written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month by Justice Krishna Iyer, Justice Leila Seth, Justice Rajinder Sachar, Mohini Giri, Upendra Baxi, Shyam Benegal, Fali S Nariman and others.

The letter read: "The death penalty legitimises an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims, as has been persistently demonstrated. A step towards abolishing death penalty would go well with the principles of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, of which the whole country is proud."

Athialy said, "India still has a chance at the general assembly plenary session to vote in favour of a moratorium." The full general assembly is expected to endorse the decision at a plenary session in December.

The resolution calls on states that still maintain the death penalty "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty".

It urges these states "to respect international standards that provide safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty" and "progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed."

The resolution is not legally binding on states.

AI said 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice so far. Only 25 countries actually carried out executions in 2006. In that year, 91 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the US.