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HindustanTimes Fri,11 Jul 2014

Amnesty wants death penalty "moratorium" amid Sikh protests

PTI  London, April 16, 2013
First Published: 17:53 IST(16/4/2013) | Last Updated: 19:11 IST(16/4/2013)

Amid protests by UK-based Sikhs against the death sentence of Delhi bomb blast accused Devinderpal Singh Bhullar, a prominent human rights group has called on the Indian government to establish a "moratorium" on capital punishment.

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As hundreds of Sikh protesters sporting pro-Khalistan banners gathered outside the Indian High Commission in London Monday to voice their protest against the death sentence awarded to Delhi bomb blast accused Bhullar, London-based Amnesty International warned that India was in danger of alienating itself on the world stage.

"We renew our call to the Indian government to establish a moratorium on executions. The way mercy petitions are being rejected is a cause for concern. As a global player, just political or economic achievements are not enough. India must be seen as an upholder of human rights in the world," Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty campaigner and death penalty expert, told PTI.

"The hanging of Ajmal Kasab (2008 Mumbai attacks accused) last year, the first since 2004, was a big setback to the country's own record of leniency and one of the most shocking developments of 2012. India had been seen as an inspiration in the region and any further hangings will be extremely regressive," she added.

Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru was also hanged, earlier this year.

The Supreme Court had upheld Bhullar's death sentence on Friday, rejecting a 12-year appeal against his conviction for plotting the 1993 car bombing in New Delhi that killed nine people.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has now urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to commute the death sentence to life in prison over fears of wider protests in the state which endured a brutal separatist insurgency in the 1980s.

Amnesty echoed concerns over the manner in which the last execution, that of Guru, was carried out and warned against a repeat of similar secrecy that might trigger unrest.

"International standards require a notification to the family lawyers and the wider public. The process must be seen to be transparent to ensure all safeguards are followed and a proper informed debate can take place," added Sangiorgio, among the authors of Amnesty's recent death penalty report for 2012 which was highly critical of India's record on the issue.

The report said, India along with Japan and Pakistan, resumed executions in 2012 after long periods when these countries were execution-free.

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