Stop the resurgence of capital punishment in South Asia

On the 11th World Day against the Death Penalty, the ICJ calls on South Asian States to stop the resurgence of executions in the region.

The ICJ considers the death penalty in all cases to constitute a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

“In the past year, we’ve seen an alarming increase in the number of executions in South Asia,” said Sheila Varadan, International Legal Advisor for the South Asia Programme.

“Capital punishment is State-sanctioned vengeance. The deliberate and premeditated act of taking a human life in State custody can never constitute a form of justice. It is is an irreversible form of punishment that, as we have seen time and again, cannot be administered without some degree of subjectivity and arbitrariness,” she added.

India ended its eight-year moratorium on the death penalty with the executions of Ajmal Amir Kasab in November 2012 and Afzal Guru in February 2013.

Although the current policy on a moratorium is unclear, Pakistan appears to be leaning towards resuming executions. In November 2012, Pakistan carried out its first execution in five years when it hanged solider Muhammad Hussain.

In July 2013, the newly-elected Government signaled its intention to recommence civilian executions after it failed to renew the five-year moratorium. Over 8000 people have been sentenced to death in Pakistan.

Bangladesh also continues to exercise the death penalty. It has over 1000 individuals on death row.

Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal has handed down the death penalty in six of the seven cases completed, despite growing international criticism over the independence and impartiality of the proceedings.

South Asia’s increasing resort to the use of the death penalty goes against a 15-year worldwide trend towards abolition. More than 150 of 192 United Nations member States have now either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, including 30 States from the Asia-Pacific region.

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a number of resolutions calling for a worldwide abolition of the death penalty.  In its most recent resolution in 2012, an overwhelming majority of UN member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

“India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are part of a dwindling number of States who still retain this cruel and inhumane form of punishment,” Varadan said.

The ICJ urges India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to abolishing it and accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the abolition of the death penalty.


Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Advisor, South Asia Programme, t: +66 857200723; email: sheila.varadan(a)


  • The United Nations has 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 a large majority of UN Member States voted in favor of a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards the death penalty’s abolition.
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