India – Opposing death penalty to address the terrible and distressing prevalence of sexual violence in our community

A media statement by a group in India

Opposing death penalty to address the terrible and distressing prevalence of sexual violence in our community

We raise our strong objection to the imminent execution of the four convicts in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. The court has scheduled the hanging of four out of the six convicts tomorrow at 6 am. The incident had shook the nation when it happened in the capital and while the crime committed by the convicts is inexcusable, punishing them with a death penalty enables a culture of violence. According to the Law Commission report on death penalty in 2015, charging people with death penalty is no stronger a deterrent of crimes than charging them with life imprisonment.

Public opinion in India has consistently been in the favour of death penalty. In November, the case of gang rape from Hyderabad triggered a massive uproar for executing the accused. The aftermath of this incident, where the police in Hyderabad shot the accused in an alleged encounter and received nationwide appreciation showcases how perilous this public opinion can be for the criminal justice system.

Recent trends have shown the courts using the death penalty frequently in cases involving sexual offences against women and children. According to a study conducted by the National Law University Delhi, 52.9% of those charged with death penalty in India were convicted with sexual offences and murder. The response of the judiciary is often motivated by the public outrage against the convicts along with media slander. However, death penalty has not led to a reduction in sexual offences, nor has it resulted in an increase in conviction rates. In fact, the spectacle of death penalty removes public attention from actual legal and social reform that guarantee the safety of women and children.

Among the many flaws of death penalty, perhaps the biggest one is that it is irreversible. In 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was given a death sentence for the rape and murder of a school student. However, several years after his execution, many facts have come to light that hint at the possibility that he might not have been the actual perpetrator of the crime. This case is a gross miscarriage of justice that cannot be reversed. Secondly, the criminal justice system in India is based on the principles of reform rather than punishment. The death penalty assumes that the individual is incapable of reform, moreover, it fundamentally violates the principles of justice. On 28 January, the Supreme Court granted bail to 15 convicts serving life sentences in the Gujarat Riots of 2002 on the condition that they engage themselves in religious and community services. If the apex court can deem the convicts of mob rioting, mass rapes and vandalism capable of reform, any other charges of death penalty can be questioned on constitutional and humanitarian grounds.

According to Amnesty International, 106 countries have abolished the death penalty. There are several international legal instruments that challenge the death penalty on humanitarian principles including the Second optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Death penalty endows excessive power upon the state and judiciary. It is an autocratic decision by the state which can be fatal to the foundations of a democracy. Moreover, particularly in India, the victims of death penalty in India almost always belong to the lower classes, marginalized and vulnerable groups who suffer from a lack of legal, institutional and political support.

At this time, we call to mind the recommendations set out within the Law Commission of India’s study of the death penalty, Report No. 262, in which it is noted that: ‘The notion of “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” has no place in our constitutionally mediated criminal justice system. Capital punishment fails to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals.’

Therefore, death penalty is an inhuman, cruel and degrading practice that serves no purpose in actually deterring criminals. With due respect to the victim’s family, it is our strong recommendation that the decision of execution is reviewed by the Supreme Court and the convicts are instead sentenced to imprisonment for life. Capital punishment is again a murder of justice.

Kirity Roy
Secretary
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha
(MASUM)
&
National Convenor (PACTI)
Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity
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ADPAN calls on India to stop executions (Media Statement)

 

 

21 January 2020

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) urgently calls upon the Government of India to stop the executions of Akshay Thakur, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta who are scheduled to be hanged at Tihar Jail on Saturday 1 February.

 

It should not be assumed that the death penalty is a common feature of the administration of justice within India. In fact, the most recent execution in India took place on 30 July 2015 and only four judicially sanctioned executions have been conducted in more than 20 years. In this period, an unmistakable international trend towards abolition of the death penalty has emerged. In these circumstances, the scheduled resumption of executions should be regarded as an unusual and retrograde step, inconsistent with upholding the dignity of human life within India.

 

To resume the state-sanctioned killing of prisoners, regardless of the nature of their offending, is an affront to the universal right to life and accordingly undermines the inherent dignity of all people. The inclusion of the right to life in Article 21 of the Constitution of India reflects this universal value.   Having ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), India is in a position to adopt the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and to acknowledge that the persistence of the death penalty is an inherent contradiction to the ‘enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights’.

 

At this time, we call to mind the recommendations set out within the Law Commission of India’s study of the death penalty, Report No. 262, in which it is noted that:

 

‘The notion of “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” has no place in our constitutionally mediated criminal justice system. Capital punishment fails to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals.’

 

Clearly, the people of India are rightly seeking to address the terrible and distressing prevalence of sexual violence in their community and ADPAN joins with local advocates in their wholesale condemnation of the horrific death of Nirbhaya and other women across India. However, reliance upon the death penalty at this time will only serve to further entrench violence and impede the protection of human rights.

 

 

 

The death penalty will not ensure the protection and safety of the Indian people from sexual violence. The “low rate of conviction in rape trials, significantly high number of incidents of acquaintance rapes and under-reporting of sexual violence”, requires an extensive and nuanced institutional and cultural response that is not the province of the death penalty.

 

Proceeding with the executions of Akshay Thakur, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta would only illustrate the inherent futility of the death penalty. We ask that the Government of India takes action immediately, consistent with the exercise of its sovereign powers, to prevent these deaths.

 

 

Sara Kowal

Charles Hector

For and on behalf of ADPAN (Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network)

Email: contactadpan@gmail.com

Website: https://adpan.org/

 

 

ADPAN

 

ADPAN is the peak regional body for organisations committed to the abolition of the death penalty across Asia-Pacific, with members from approximately 22 countries within the region. As such, ADPAN maintains that the death penalty violates the right to life, that it is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and that the death penalty should be entirely abolished internationally.

 

 

India Sets Executions For The 4 Men Convicted In New Delhi Bus Rape And Murder

India Sets Executions For The 4 Men Convicted In New Delhi Bus Rape And Murder

 

The mother of the victim of the fatal 2012 gang rape said the “execution of the four convicts will empower the women of the country,” on Tuesday in Delhi.

AP

A court in India has issued a death warrant for four men convicted in the fatal 2012 gang rape of a college student on a New Delhi bus, a crime that sparked huge demonstrations and a nationwide reckoning over sexual violence in India.

The men are scheduled to be executed by hanging at 7 a.m. on Jan. 22, the court in New Delhi announced Tuesday. India’s president can still stay their execution, but he is not expected to intervene.

Last month, the Indian Supreme Court rejected a final appeal by one of the men convicted of rape and murder in the attack on a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, who cannot be named under Indian law. She has become known across India as “Nirbhaya,” or “The Fearless One.”

Prosecutors say she boarded a private bus with a male friend after seeing a film at a movie theater. Inside the vehicle, a group of men beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal bleeding to her. The two were abandoned on the side of the road. About two weeks later, the woman died of her injuries.

Amid outrage over her death, protests erupted across India, and the country is still grappling with how to confront what activists call a national epidemic of sexual violence against women. The “Nirbhaya” case prompted the Indian government to increase prison time for convicted rapists, and fast-track their trials.

But last month, new and similarly horrific rape cases grabbed headlines and once again sparked nationwide protests.

In the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, police say a group of men deflated a 27-year-old woman’s tires, posed as good Samaritans to trick her — and then gang-raped and killed her. Authorities discovered her burnt body in a wooded area the next day. The suspects were arrested, but before they could be charged, police shot them dead in what many suspect was an extrajudicial killing, fueled by national anger.

Meanwhile, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a 23-year-old woman on her way to testify at court against her alleged rapist was set on fire by a gang of men, allegedly including her man she had accused. She also died of her injuries.

The brutality of these cases has renewed attention on the 2012 “Nirbhaya” case.

Indian media coverage of rape tends to focus on sensational details of cases in which victims are urban, educated professionals who get attacked by strangers. But experts say those cases are very rare. Most sexual assaults in the country are believed to happen within families. Most victims are thought to be poor, lower-caste women who know their attackers.

In 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, there were nearly 33,000 cases of rape reported in India, according to national crime statistics. That’s a quarter of the number of rapes reported in the United States that year, which has a quarter of India’s population.

Most rape is believed to go unreported in India. According to the National Family Health Survey, 80 percent of women who experience sexual violence never tell anyone about it.

Executions are legal in India but rare. The last time the country used capital punishment in a rape and murder case was 15 years ago. The country has carried out three executions since then, in terrorism cases. The last execution in the country happened in 2015.

The mother of the “Nirbhaya” victim told reporters outside the Delhi court Tuesday that it is the appropriate punishment for the four men convicted in her daughter’s death.

“My daughter has got justice,” said the mother. “Execution of the four convicts will empower the women of the country. This decision will strengthen the trust of people in the judicial system.”

The four men scheduled to be executed later this month were convicted and sentenced back in 2013 and have been detained since then. A fifth man convicted in connection with the killing died in prison. A sixth man, who was a minor at the time of the attack, was sentenced to the maximum penalty of three years in a reform facility. – NPR, 7/1/2020