Strongly condemning the execution of Ajmal Kasab, human rights activists on Wednesday questioned the “unusual speed” with which his mercy petition was rejected and also the secrecy surrounding the execution at the Yerawada prison in Pune.

The ‘Peoples’ Movement against Death Penalty’ headed by Justice VR. Krishna Iyer described the execution as an “unconstitutional act” of the State. Saying that Kasab was brainwashed in the name of God to unleash unmindful act of terror, the organisation, in a statement, said poverty and ignorance of the “young boy” was exploited and he was used as a killing instrument by the hatred politics of a neighbour State.

Though no amount of explanation could justify the brutal act of terror, the execution of Kasab was no solution to the crime. “While there was scope to reform the convict through rigorous imprisonment, the State executed him and set a dangerous precedent. The way the execution was kept top secret only dealt a severe blow on the humanist section of the society and this precedent will empower the State to use hanging as an instrument to silence dissents,” Selvaraj Murugaiyan, Secretary of the Chennai Chapter said.

Amnesty International said the execution of Kasab would undo much of the progress India made over death penalty. “Today’s execution means India has taken a significant step backwards and joined that minority of countries that are still carrying our executions,” Shashikumar Velath, Director-Programmes, Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

Kasab’s death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on 29 August 2012, and his mercy petition was rejected by the President on November 5. Stating that eleven mercy petitions from persons on death row were pending before the President prior to Kasab filing his petition, he said the convict’s lawyer and family in Pakistan were not informed of the imminent execution which was in violation of international standards on the use of the death penalty.

“We recognise the gravity of the crimes for which Ajmal Kasab was convicted, and sympathise with the victims of these acts and their families, but death penalty is a cruel and inhuman form of punishment,” he said.

Mr. Shashikumar said Amnesty International was deeply disconcerted both by the unusual speed with which the mercy petition was rejected and the secrecy that surrounded Kasab’s execution. The resumption of executions in the country came barely two days after the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee adopted a resolution calling for a global moratorium on the death penalty with a view to completely abolishing it.

He urged the Union Government to establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing death penalty.

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