India has regressed by expanding scope of death penalty: Amnesty

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New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) Global human rights organisation Amnesty International on Thursday said executions and death sentences worldwide have fallen but several countries have regressed — like India, where death sentences fell but it expanded the scope of death penalty.

“Positive steps were taken in 2017 and the full impact will be seen in the coming months and years. However, with some countries taking steps backwards – or threatening to – the campaign against the death penalty remains as essential as ever,” Amnesty International said in its 2017 global review of the death penalty.

Globally, executions and death sentences are sliding and India has contributed to this trend. Courts in India imposed 109 new death sentences in 2017, while it was 136 in 2016. Fortunately, India observed a hiatus on executions for the second year running with zero executions recorded in 2017.

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“However, there is bad news coming out of India too, with new laws being passed that expand the scope of this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

India is one of only three countries in the world that expanded the scope of death penalty in 2017 by adopting new laws, the organisation said.

At the national level, the Anti-Hijacking Act added death penalty in its provisions. At the state level, Uttar Pradesh introduced the punishment in cases related to spurious liquor, Madhya Pradesh in rape cases of girls below 12 years of age, and similar new laws in Rajasthan, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh.

“It is high time that India consigns the death penalty to the history books, instead of falsely claiming that it improves public safety,” said Patel. “With countries continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of India and the world’s remaining executing governments could not be starker.”

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After Guatemala became abolitionist for ordinary crimes such as murder, the number of countries to have abolished the death penalty in law or practice now stands at 142. Only 23 countries continue to execute, including India. It was the same number in 2016, despite several states resuming executions after a hiatus.

“The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International.

Amnesty International recorded a decrease in executions globally by four per cent from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39 per cent from 2015, when the organisation reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989.

It recorded a 17 per cent decrease in the total number of death sentences imposed globally, down to 2,591 in 2017 from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016.

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More than half (51 per cent) of all recorded executions were carried out in Iran, which together with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan carried out 84 per cent of the global total.

These figures do not include the thousands of death sentences and executions that Amnesty International believes were imposed and implemented in China, where figures remain classified as a state secret, the organisation said in a release.

–IANS

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