Halt further executions, Amnesty tells India

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) Amnesty International has urged President Pranab Mukherjee to halt further executions and has picked procedural holes in the hanging of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab.

In an open letter to the president, Amnesty India has asked him to commute all death sentences to imprisonment.

It has also sought an immediate halt to plans to carry out further executions and establish an official moratorium on executions as the first step to abolishing the death penalty.

Wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, Indian authorities must promptly inform the individual, lawyers and the family of the decision, it said.

Amnesty India's Chief Executive G. Ananthapadmanabhan also demanded that the reasons for the decision to execute the convict, and the proposed date of execution should be made available.

"(We) urge the Indian authorities to immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," Amnesty said.

Amnesty pointed out that 140 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

While admitting that Kasab committed "grave and serious offences", Amnesty said it was concerned about the secretive manner he was hanged in Pune Nov 21.

"It is unclear whether he was aware of the possibility of seeking a review of your decision," the letter said.

"Information about the rejection of the petition for mercy and the date of execution was not made available to the public until after the execution had been carried out.

"This practice is in contrast to how previous executions have been carried out in India over the past 15 years."

Fourteen former judges recently petitioned the president to commute 13 death sentences they believe were wrongly imposed.

Amnesty said the trial of Mohammad Afzal Guru, who was sentenced to death for his involvement in the 2001 parliament attack, "did not conform with India's obligations under international human rights law".

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, it said.

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