Amnesty International calls for abolishing death penalty

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Chandigarh, Oct 10 (UNI) Expressing its opposition to death penalty, the Indian chapter of Amnesty International today said that is was time for India to recognise the growing trend towards abolishing death penalty worldwide and reconsider its position.

The land of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi should send a message that it will use only civilized methods of punishment, Mr Mukul Sharma, director of of Amnesty International (AI) India said here today on the occasion of International Day against death penalty.

The appeal was made in the context of a resolution calling for a global moratorium on execution introduced at the United Nations General Assembly 62nd session which began on September 18. The resolution is listed for discussions in early November and for voting later in the month.

The adoption of such a resolution by the UN's principal organ would be an important milestone towards the abolition of the death penalty, Mr Sharma said while addressing a media conference here in the presence of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, who too is opposed to capital punishment.

Mr Sharma maintained that the death penalty legitimizes an inrreversible act of violence by the state. "The death penalty is discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities", he said.

Many governments had recognised that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect of human rights, as a result an increasing number of countries across the world had abolished this punishment in their national legislations, he added.

According to Mr Sharma a momentum was gathering to end capital punishment in all countries and 130 countries, from all regions of the world, had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice and only 25 countries carried out executions in 2006. Amnesty International's statistics also show a significant, overall decline in the number of reported executions last year, he claimed.

The right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment are recognised in the universal declaration of human rights, other international human rights instruments and many national constitutions, he said.

Mr Sharma claimed that whenever the death penalty is used, there is a grave risk that individuals are executed for crimes they did not commit. Prisoners had been executed despite strong doubts about their guilt, he added.

The human rights activist claimed that there was no valid scientific evidence to support that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.

Mr Sharma said that in the last three years the number of death sentences awarded by the courts in India had shown an increase. He said that Amnesty had so far collected 25,000 signatures against death penalty in India and in the next few days they were hoping to increase this figure before submitting it to the government.

UNI

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