Kasab Hanging: Human Rights Watch calls on India to end capital punishment

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 21, 2012 07:43 hrs

Mumbai: Following the hanging of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the surviving Pakistan-origin terrorist involved in the November 26-29, 2008 terror mayhem in Mumbai, in Pune's Yerawada Jail on Wednesday morning, the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW), has called on the Indian Government to join the rising ranks of nations that have taken the decision to remove the death penalty from their legal frameworks.

In a statement issued today,HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said: " The hanging of Ajmal Kasab marks a concerning end to the country's moratorium on capital punishment."

"Instead of resorting to the use of execution to address heinous crime, India should join the rising ranks of nations that have taken the decision to remove the death penalty from their legal frameworks," Ganguly added further.

The HRW also called on the Government of Pakistan to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty following its troubling return to the dwindling ranks of countries imposing capital punishment.

Human Rights Watch appeared to question Islamabad's decision to hang Muhammad Hussain, an army soldier convicted of murder, at Mianwali jail in Punjab province on November 15.

The hanging ended Pakistan's widely hailed unofficial moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place since 2008, it said.

According to official figures, Pakistan has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.

"After a four-year unofficial moratorium, Pakistan has reverted to the odious practice of sending people to the gallows," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch.

Hasan added: "Instead, the government should declare an official moratorium, commute all existing death sentences, and then abolish the death penalty for all crimes once and for all."

On February 12, 2009, a court martial in Okara Cantonment sentenced Hussain to death for murdering his superior, Havaldar Khadim Hussain, in 2008.

He subsequently filed mercy petitions to the army's General Headquarters and the chief of army staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, but they were rejected. Hussain's final mercy petition to President Asif Ali Zardari was rejected on December 30, 2011.

The Pakistani government is sending mixed messages about the death penalty, Human Rights Watch said.

Government officials speaking on condition of anonymity told Human Rights Watch that Hussain's execution had been carried out under pressure from military authorities as Husain had been convicted by a military rather than a civilian court.

While under military rule, Pakistan each year executed among the highest number of people of any country. For example, according to Amnesty International, in 2005 Pakistan sentenced more than 241 people to death and executed at least 31, the fifth highest total in the world.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as an inherently irreversible, inhumane punishment. A majority of countries in the world have abolished the practice. On December 18, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution by a wide margin calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions. (ANI)

More from Sify: