World Day against Death Penalty Observed

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Every year on October 10, people around the globe observe World Day Against the Death Penalty. The focus changes year by year, and this year’s theme was “The Death Penalty Does Not Stop Drug Crimes.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on this occasion observed that the death penalty does not deter drug crimes, nor does it protect people from drug abuse and reiterated the UN’s call to abolish the practice altogether, while emphasizing that if used, that it be applied only to the crime of intentional killing.

Meanwhile, UN human rights experts have noted that around 1,000 executions for drug crimes take place worldwide every year.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for any but the ‘most serious’ crimes. Drug offences, according to the Covenant, cannot meet this threshold, comparing to the crimes involving international killing, which is the ‘most serious.’

The U.S.A is among the top five executioners in the world, along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and China, which executes more people than the rest of the world combined.

According to Amnesty International, as of July 2015, 101 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

In 2014, at least 22 countries around the world carried out executions.

In 2014, at least 2,466 people were sentenced to death worldwide – up 28% on 2013.

THE INTERNATIONAL FRAMEWORK

From the early 1960s, although a majority of countries still used the death penalty, the draftees of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) had already begun moves for its abolition in international law.

Although Article 6 of the ICCPR permits the use of the death penalty in limited circumstances, it also provides that “nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.”

In 1984, the UN Economic and Social Council adopted Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.

In 1989, 33 years after the adoption of the Covenant itself, the UN General Assembly adopted the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR that gave abolition decisive new momentum. Member States which became parties to the Protocol agreed not to execute anyone within their jurisdictions.

UN General Assembly resolutions: In a series of four resolutions adopted in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013, the General Assembly urged States to respect international standards that protect the rights of those facing the death penalty, to progressively restrict its use and reduce the number of offences whichare punishable by death.

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RECENT EXECUTIONS IN INDIA

Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in 2004, after a period of about 7 years since the last execution. The previous recorded execution had been in 1997. After 2004, India had an unofficial moratorium in executions for eight years, until Ajmal Kasab was executed in November 2012. Two executions have happened since: Afzal Guru was executed in February 2013, and Yakub Memon was executed in July 2015.

LAW COMMISSION REPORT ON DEALTH PENALTY

Recently in 2015, Justice A. P. Shah, Chairman of 20th Law Commission of India presented Report No. 262 on – The Death Penalty.

20th Law Commission of India recommended “swift” abolition of death penalty except in terror-related cases, noting it does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment.

In its report, the Law Commission said there is a need to debate as to how to bring about the “abolition of death penalty in all respects in the very near future, soonest.”

While supporting death for those convicted in terror cases and for waging war against the country, the report, ‘The Death Penalty’ said that although there is no valid penological justification for treating terrorism differently from other crimes, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security.

The recommendation by the nine-member panel was, however, not unanimous, with one full-time member and two government representatives dissenting and supporting retention of capital punishment.

One of three full-time members Usha Mehra and both the ex-officio members – Law secretary P K Malhotra and Legislative Secretary Sanjay Singh – gave their dissenting notes. The Law Commission comprises a Chairman, three full-time members, two ex-officio members who represent the government, and three part-time members.

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POLITICAL OPINION IN INDIA

Some recent developments indicate an increase in political opinion in favour of abolition. Most recently, in August 2015, the Tripura Assembly voted in favour of a resolution seeking the abolition of the death penalty.

Demands for the abolition of the death penalty have been made by the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI (M)], the Communist Party of India (Marxist – Leninist Liberation) [CPI (M-L)] the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the Gandhiya Makkal Iyakkam (GMI), the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

On 31st July, 2015, D. Raja of the CPI introduced a Private Member’s Bill asking the Government to declare a moratorium on death sentences pending the abolition of the death penalty.

In August 2015, DMK Member of Parliament Kanimozhi introduced a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha seeking abolition of capital punishment.

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