Abolish the death penalty in India, MPs urge

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MPs from across the House have united to urge India to bring an end to its use of the death penalty.

The backbench business debate on 28 February 2013 focused on a petition launched by the Kesri Lehar campaign, calling on the Indian government to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The debate on 28 February 2013 was led by Labour's John McDonnell, who argued there was a "greater sense of urgency" following India's recent resumption of executions.

The hanging of Mohammad Afzal Guru in New Delhi on 9 February was the second in India in three months after an eight-year hiatus, according to Amnesty International.

Mr McDonnell said the eight-year moratorium had "led us into a false sense of security" and "many more executions are likely to follow unless action are taken".

He paid tribute to the efforts of the Sikh and Punjabi communities in particular, who, he said, "have an abiding sense of injustice to which there's been no proper redress".

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard emphasised that "India is a close friend of the UK and friends can be candid" before asking the Indian government to start the process of abolishing the death penalty.

Lib Dem Simon Hughes said he understood that India might see removing the death penalty as a "sign of weakness" but pointed out that it had been in force since independence and had failed to prevent atrocities and acts of terrorism.

He described capital punishment as "undermining democratic principles and values and undermining international credibility".

Labour MP Seema Malhotra spoke of her own family's experience of violence and unrest in the Punjab and of the need for India "to stop human rights abuses facing all its minorities".

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire confirmed he had "reiterated" the UK's opposition to the death penalty when he accompanied David Cameron on a recent visit to India.

Mr Swire stressed that "the death penalty undermines human dignity and there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value" and branded the end of the eight-year moratorium "disappointing".

Shadow Foreign Office minister John Spellar acknowledged that "India has suffered grievously from terrorism" and went on to say "execution would not end terrorism but would damage the reputation of India".

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