India: the ICJ condemns the execution of Yakub Memon

The ICJ strongly condemned the execution of Yakub Memon, who was hanged in Nagpur Central Jail, India this morning.

“Yakub Memon’s execution is a distressing and regressive move, keeping India in the minority of countries which continue to carry out executions,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director. “While Yakub Memon was convicted of terrible crimes, executing him was not the solution. India should immediately put in place a moratorium on the death penalty.”

A court set up under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) convicted and sentenced Yakub Memon to death for a range of offences, including conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, in connection with the deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 1993.

These attacks killed more than 250 people and injured more than 700. The main accused in this case, including Yakub Memon’s brother Tiger Memon, have still not been apprehended or tried.

“In executing Yakub Memon, the Indian government has only fulfilled a desire for retribution and added to the disturbing trend of executions in the name of fighting terrorism in South Asia”, Zarifi added. “The death penalty has not been shown to have any deterrent effect on crime or terrorism anywhere in the world.”

The Indian Supreme Court had confirmed Yakub Memon’s conviction and sentence on appeal from the court set up under the TADA in March 2013.

The Indian government repealed the TADA in 1995, after sustained national and international criticism for its incompatibility with human rights law, particularly the right to fair trial.

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.

The Indian president rejected a first mercy petition on his case in April 2014.

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

On 21 July 2015, the Indian Supreme Court dismissed his curative petition for the commutation of his death sentence.

A court had authorized his execution before his curative petition was dismissed.

Yakub Memon then approached the Indian Supreme Court challenging, both, the manner in which his curative petition was heard and dismissed, and the validity of the order authorizing his execution. However, the Supreme Court dismissed both these arguments yesterday.

Over the past week, Yakub Memon filed fresh mercy petitions to commute his death sentence before the Governor of the State of Maharashtra and the President of India. Both were rejected yesterday.

Yakub Memon’s lawyers challenged the rejection of the mercy petition, and asked the Indian Supreme Court to stay the execution as per the guidelines issued in the 2014 case of Shatrughan Chauhan v Union of India, for “safeguarding the interests of the death row convicts”.

These included ensuring a minimum period of 14 days “between the receipt of communication of the rejection of the mercy petition and the scheduled date of execution”.

But the Court – in a hearing early this morning – rejected this final plea.


This is India’s third execution in the past five years. India resumed executions in 2012, after a gap of eight years. Since November 2012, two other people have been executed, Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru.

They also were both charged and convicted for their role in terrorist attacks.

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

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.

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.”

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.

The ICJ opposes capital punishment in all cases without exception. In line with the present international trend, the ICJ calls on India to impose an official moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the death penalty.


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

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