Posted by: Singh Is King | Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sikhs Across Europe Call For End To Death Penalty In India

death-penalty-noose.jpg A European-wide protest by hundreds of Sikhs calling for an end to the death penalty has just commenced in Brussels. The protest is taking place outside the European Commission and European Parliament.

Following the protest rally a memorandum calling for an end to the death penalty in India will be submitted to the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union.  The European Parliament President, Hans-Gert Poettering and the EC Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner are being urged to link future trade with India if it puts an end to the death penalty and respects basic human rights of minorities, such as the Sikhs.

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Hans-Gert Poettering

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Karelde Gucht

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Benita Ferrero-Waldner

The EU is India’s largest trading partner with about 25 percent of Indian exports coming to EU countries. The EU also provides the most foreign investment to India. Last year two-way trade between India and the EU totalled about euro38 billion.

Given the level of trade the EU is in a strong position to make future trade dependent upon the ending of the death penalty and a respect of basic human rights.

Although India’s highest courts have ruled that the death penalty can only be applied in the “rarest of rare” cases there are believed to be as many as 700 people on death row in India.

The EU lobbied strongly against the execution of Dhanomjoy Chaterjee on 14 August 2004, which ended the long-standing moratorium on the death penalty in India.

Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said: ‘The ending of the moratorium was a backward and retrograde step by the Indian regime and a show of defiance to the EU.’

The protest is highlighting the case of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar where there is direct EU involvement.  His case is one of the most controversial and highest profile death penalty cases in recent Indian history.  Almost 12 years earlier Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar, a Sikh political activist, was illegally deported from Germany.  Davinderpal Singh was handed over to the Indian authorities on the basis that he had nothing to fear on his return to India.

For 12 years Davinderpal Singh has been forced to live with the mistake by the German authorities.  He was arrested and put in prison as soon as he landed in Delhi, tortured to obtain a false confession, charged and almost 5 years ago sentenced to death by hanging for a crime he did not commit.

When Germany deported Davinderpal Singh to a death-penalty prone country it violated the European Convention on Human Rights. After his deportation, the court of appeal in Frankfurt allowed his appeal and said that he should not have been deported as he would face torture, harassment and death in India and were he to re-enter Germany he would be given asylum.

The verdict of the court of appeal in Germany came too late for Davinderpal Singh. Following international pressure in support of Davinderpal Singh additional charges were brought against him.  However, six months ago the Professor was acquitted and all charges dropped.  Germany and the EU have a moral obligation to ensure the threat of the death penalty by India is immediately withdrawn and the case against the Professor is fully reviewed in accordance with international law, under monitoring by international observers.

Earlier this month the latest death sentences were awarded to Jagtar Singh and Balwant Singh by the Indian courts.  This has resulted in worldwide protests by Sikhs and leading figures in the Sikh community in Punjab have expressed shock over the death sentences and condemned the Indian authorities for taking this insensitive step and ignoring Sikh sentiments.

The European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union are being urged to press for an immediate withdrawal of the death sentences imposed against Jagtar Singh and Balwant Singh.

Sikhs from Belgium will also be submitting a memorandum to the Belgium Foreign Minister, Karel de Gucht and urging him to share it with the Foreign Ministers of the other 27 EU Member States.

Bhai Amrik Singh said: ‘The estimated 1 million Sikhs in Europe find India’s position on the death penalty totally unacceptable and calls on the EU and the member states to force India to end the death penalty and respect basic human rights or risk its trading position with the EU.’

Gurjeet Singh
National Press Secretary
Sikh Federation (UK)

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