Death row phenomenon is inhuman: report

May 2nd, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) The ‘death row’ phenomenon, in which inmates serving out a death sentence become delusional and suicidal because of cumbersome legal procedures and prolonged periods of solitary confinement, is inhuman and cruel, says a report by two leading civil rights groups. According to the report “Lethal Lottery - The Death Penalty In India”, released by Amnesty International India and People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry) Friday: “The ‘death row’ phenomenon leading to ‘death row’ syndrome, in which prisoners spend years awaiting their execution and go through excruciating mental torture, was recognized by the European Court of Human Rights in 1989.”

The European Court had rejected the extradition of Jens Soering, a German citizen arrested in Britain on charges of murder in Virginia, US, in 1985.

“The court forbade his extradition to any jurisdiction that could sentence him to death citing not the death penalty itself but the death row phenomenon.”

Courts in Britain have on occasion ruled that anything over five years from the time of imposition of death sentence is prolonged.

Though the Supreme Court In India has not referred to delays in execution as cruel and inhuman, in five different cases over varying periods of time it has observed that if a prisoner is sentenced to death it is lawful to only execute and not humiliate and torture him.

“This is not, however, an argument for hastening executions, as that reduces the possibility of adequate appeal or for evidence of possible innocence of the prisoner to emerge and may even violate fair trial standards”, the report added.

Rights activists have no firm number of people on death row in the country though home ministry officials say about 40 mercy petitions are pending before the president, some of them since 1992. Many continue to languish in jails after having been sentenced to die by lower courts.

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