India: stay Yakub Memon’s imminent execution

The Indian government should stay the imminent execution of Yakub Memon and commute his death sentence, said the ICJ today. The call comes after the Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition on 21 July.

Yakub Memon was convicted and sentenced to death for a range of offences, including conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, in connection with the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 1993, which killed more than 250 people and injured more than 700.

A court has authorized his execution for 30 July 2015, although Memon has submitted another mercy petition, according to media reports.

“The 1993 terrorist attacks in Mumbai were heinous criminal acts that devastated the lives of the victims and their families, and amounted to massive human rights abuses,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Director for Asia and the Pacific.

“But the death penalty is itself a denial of the right to life and the freedom from cruel and inhuman punishment. Executing Memon only adds to the sum total of inhumanity,” he added.

Yakub Memon was initially sentenced to death by a court set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act, 1987 (TADA) in July 2007.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision was the latest in a series of denials of relief.

The Indian Supreme Court confirmed his conviction and sentence on appeal in March 2013.

Memon then filed a mercy petition before the Indian president, who denied it in April 2014.

He subsequently filed a review petition challenging his sentence before the Indian Supreme Court, which rejected the petition on 9 April 2015.

A court set up under the TADA convicted Yakub Memon for his involvement in the terror attacks in Mumbai in 1993.

The Indian government repealed the TADA in 1995, after sustained national and international criticism for its compatibility with human rights law, particularly the right to fair trial.

Provisions of the TADA defined offences vaguely and broadly; reversed the presumption of innocence in certain instances; allowed for long periods of pre-charge detention; made certain “confessions” to specific police officials admissible as evidence; and limited the right to appeal by only allowing appeals to the Supreme Court.

Several provisions of the TADA were later included in the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was introduced in 2002 and repealed in 2004.

Subsequent amendments introduced some provisions of the POTA and TADA into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which remains in force.

Yakub Memon was tried under provisions of the TADA as it was the law in force in 1993, when the terrorist attacks in Mumbai occurred.

India is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial as well as the right to life and freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

“India, consistent with its international legal obligations, may not impose the death penalty in situations where important safeguards to ensure a fair trial have not been met,” Zarifi said.

The UN Human Rights Committee, the supervisory authority for the ICCPR, has emphasized: “In cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important. The imposition of a sentence of death upon conclusion of a trial, in which the provisions of article 14 of the Covenant have not been respected, constitutes a violation of the right to life.”

The ICJ expresses its solidarity with the victims of the 1993 attack, and their families.

The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception.

The death penalty constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

In line with the present international trend, the ICJ calls on India impose an official moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

India resumed executions in 2012, after a gap of eight years. Since November 2012, two people have been executed, Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru. They were both charged and convicted for their role in terrorist attacks.

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution, for the fifth time since 2007, emphasizing that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity and calling on those countries that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use with a view towards its abolition.

Some 117 UN Member States, a wide majority, voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards abolition of the death penalty.


Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)

NewsPress releases