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EU High Representative Catherine Ashton Expresses Regret on the Execution of Afzal Guru in India

human rights councilBrussels:The International Council for Human Rights – Kashmir Project (ICHR-KP) wishes to express its satisfaction with the statement issued by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, regarding the execution of Afzal Guru in India stating: “…It was with regret that I learned of the execution of Mr Afzal Guru in India on the morning of 9 February 2013. Mr Guru had been convicted of the 2001 attacks on the Lok Sabha. While recognising that terrible murders were committed at the heart of this case and aware of the suffering of the victims and their families, the EU reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances and calls on India to re-establish a moratorium on executions, in line with the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment…”.
Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR – KP wrote to Baroness Ashton about the secret execution of Muhammad Afzal Guru, at New Delhi’s Tihar jail in Shashikumar Velath on the 9th February 2013, ordered by the Government of India. In the letter to Baroness Ashton, he particularly emphasised on the following issues:

The evidence against Afzal Guru in this matter was entirely circumstantial. This was accepted by the trial court, the High Court, and ultimately by the Supreme Court of India. This is why the Supreme Court in its judgment stated: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy….. The incident, which is resulted in heavy casualties had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.” In my opinion, Baroness Ashton, this itself speaks in volumes, the conviction and the punishment being based on political considerations;
It has been widely recognised by the Indian legal fraternity that Afzal Guru was not provided with adequate legal assistance, as a result of which his entire trial was prejudicial and unfair. The Supreme Court judgement in its numbered paragraph 18 records this point raised by Mr Sushil Kumar, appearing for Afzal Guru stating – “…he was denied proper legal aid, thereby depriving him of effective defence in the course of trial. In sum and substance, the contention is that the counsel appointed by the court as “amicus curiae” to take care of his defence was thrust on him against his will and the first amicus appointed made concessions with regard to the admission of certain documents and framing of charges without his knowledge. It is further submitted that the counsel who conducted the trial did not diligently cross examine the witnesses. It is, therefore, contended that his valuable right of legal aid flowing from Articles 21 and 22 is violated..”;
It was announced on television (broadcast on NDTV at 8:00, Brussels time – on the 8th February, the Burkha Dutt Programme) that the wife of Afzal Guru, Tabsum, had lodged a petition with the Supreme Court of India seeking the vacation of the death penalty given the eight years delay in the execution, and that petition is still pending in the Superior Court. It is the legal argument of the Indian lawyers that the death penalty could not have been carried out while the petition was still pending;
India’s legal fraternity has also advocated that the domestic legal system provides for judicial review of a decision by the Indian President when rejecting a mercy petition relating to a death sentence. Clearly, the murdered Muhammad Afzal Guru was denied this opportunity as well;
It is also shocking that Afzal Guru’s wife, and his other immediate family members, were not informed of his imminent execution. In fact, his wife has indicated that she received a letter from the Indian Government in the mail, three days after the execution, on the 11th February 2013;
Tabsum has also been denied the right to perform religious rites for her husband after his death, within the compound of Tihar jail, New Delhi;
Since the execution, the entire Indian-Held Kashmir has been put under 24 hour curfew, for an indefinite period of time;
The entire Kashmiri leadership, both within the occupied territory and in India at large, has been arrested or detained in their homes; and
The people of Kashmir are expressing their anguish at the tragic hanging of Guru. Youths have taken to the streets to protest despite the curfew, resulting in the deaths of three young Kashmiris – Obur Mushtaq Rather of Sopor, Tariq Ahmed and Zameer Ahmed of Sumbal – by the Indian armed forces.
Barrister Tramboo reminded Baroness Ashton about the solemn promise made by the Government of India to the International Community to uphold the moratorium on the death penalty during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. Clearly, India has violated its own commitment and once more a Kashmiri has been the victim.

Barrister Tramboo has urged Baroness Ashton for her assistance in calling on the Government of India to return the body of Afzal Guru to his wife and family, in order to allow them to perform his final religious rites with dignity.
Though unsanctioned murder is reprehensible, we believe the return of the body should be expected even in such circumstances.

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