Afzal Guru´s secretive hanging inhuman and brutal, PUDR

Afzal Guru´s secretive hanging inhuman and brutal, PUDR

New Delhi: People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) today strongly reaffirms its opposition to the inhuman, brutal and arbitrary provision of capital punishment. The secretive hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru today goes further to show how it is unfair, unjust and can be carried out for narrow political benefit of those in power.

The highandedness by the police and the flouting of each procedural norm marks the case against Afzal from the start. Picked up and kept in illegal custody, tortured to give a confession to the police, and forced to reiterate the police story before media cameras while in police custody, while the police forced the media to edit out every reference contradicting the police story, Afzal was condemned even before his trial.

Highhandedness by the political bosses marks the death of Afzal. Rejection of his mercy petition on 3 February and the approval of the order for execution by the Home Minister on 4 February were kept away from Afzal, his family and his lawyer. Afzal was thereby denied recourse to a court to examine the refusal order. It should be noted that many commutations have resulted from court interventions after the Presidents have turned down mercy petitions. And today, when a bench of the highest court is currently considering the constitutionality of death penalty itself, carrying out an execution is most reprehensible. And finally the right of his family to perform the last rites has been illegally denied by disposing off Afzal’s body in an undisclosed place.

Even by existing law, death penalty can only be given in rarest of rare cases. But the case of Afzal is miles away from any such definition. He was not one who fired a shot. He was not present at the scene. Even by prosecution evidence his role was peripheral. The court ruled that he did not belong to a terrorist organisation. Add to it Afzal’s story: that he was a surrendered militant who was brutally tortured by the BSF to force him to become an informer. Surely this does not fit into the rarest of rare category of criminals who is beyond redemption.

A punishment to a convict is supposed to address the collective conscience of society and is expected to provide possibilities of reform and repentance. Afzal’s punishment denies both. While his life is snuffed out the possibility of ever correcting an error in the judgment is lost. Also curfew has been clamped in Afzal’s Kashmir to prevent people from voicing their views. Television channels are blocked so people can be kept in the dark. The ‘collective conscience’ that the death of Afzal is supposedly meant to serve certainly does not include the people of Kashmir.

Right-wing hooligans and the police in the capital today further jointly ensured that all voices opposing this execution were silenced. People who joined a silent protest to express their

opposition to the hanging were pushed around, heckled, verbally abused, and pelted with stones. Far from removing or restraining the handful of goons, police detained the protestors till late afternoon so that the voices of protest are not heard.

PUDR demands that:

(1) the dead body of Mohd. Afzal be handed over to his family.

(2) an immediate moratorium on death penalty be declared.

(3) this new practice of carrying out executions secretively, so as to prevent debate and protest on the issue be immediately stopped.

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