The ICJ called upon the Indian Government to halt the imminent execution of Professor Devinderpal Singh Bhullar.
In August 2001, Professor Bhullar was sentenced to death under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act following his conviction on charges related to the bombing of the All Indian Youth Congress in New Delhi in 1993.
“Those who commit acts of terrorism should be prosecuted before competent, independent and impartial courts that meet international due process standards”, said Ben Schonveld, ICJ’s South Asia Director.
“However, while those responsible for such acts must be held to account, the ICJ opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, without exception as it is an inherently cruel and irreversible punishment that violates the right to life.”
“Furthermore, there are serious questions about whether Professor Bhullar’s trial was in accordance with the requirements of international law”, Schonveld added. “His conviction and death sentence are based solely upon an alleged confession he made in police custody, which he later retracted, claiming it was extracted under torture.”
The ICJ says that the execution of an individual in these circumstances would violate India’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the absolute prohibition of torture.
In May 2011, President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Professor Bhullar’s petition for clemency. The Supreme Court rejected his earlier plea on 12 April 2013 to commute the sentence to life imprisonment, and upheld its decision on 14 August 2013.
India ended an eight-year moratorium on the death penalty with the executions of Ajmal Kasab on 21 November 2012 and Mohammad Afzal Guru on 9 February 2013.
“The resumption of the death penalty by India is contrary to the global and regional movement towards the abolition of the death penalty”, said Schonveld.
The ICJ reminds that 150 countries worldwide, including 30 states in the Asia-Pacific region, have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
The ICJ urges the Indian Government to immediately reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty permanently and acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.
Over the years, the member states of the United Nations have adopted various instruments in support of the call for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. In 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution emphasizing that “that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity” and calling for the establishment of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty “with a view to abolishing the death penalty”.
The resolution was reaffirmed in 2008, 2010, and most recently in December 2012, when and overwhelming majority of 110 UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.
Ben Schonveld, ICJ South Asia Director, (Kathmandu); t: +977 9804596661; email: ben.schonveld(a)icj.orgNewsPress releases