LONDON, UK—The Kesri Lehar petition has secured a debate in the House of Commons. The success of the people’s petition enabled UK MPs to propose backbench business committee for the parliamentary time to stage a debate. The debate has now been listed to take place in the Main Chamber on Thursday, February 28 at 11.30am.
The call for the parliamentary debate was supported by a cross-party group of 68 Members of Parliament, through their support of the Kesri Lehar EDM 296. On June 28 last year, Rt Hon John McDonnell primarily sponsored and supported the Early Day Motion (EDM) which will be used as the basis for the debate.
The full text of the motion to be debated states:
“That this House welcomes the national petition launched by the Kesri Lehar campaign urging the UK Government to press 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, which encompasses the death penalty, with the result that India would abolish the death penalty and lift this threat from Balwant Singh Rajoana and others.”
The petition originated after a public gathering in Parliament Square in April 2012, to appeal for the release of Balwant Singh Rajoana. The petition which has accrued over 118,000 signatures was formally presented to Prime Minster David Cameron on 10th December 2012 by a large delegation of Kesri Lehar campaigners, which included representatives of Amnesty International, Federation and the Asian Chriastian Fellowship. A greater momentum has since gathered for a Parliamentary debate to discuss the ongoing Human Rights atrocities that are being systematically being perpetrated by the Union of States Government of India within various states and upon certain minority groups.
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams, one of the supporters, commenting on the petition said:
“I pay tribute to the work done by both Kesri Lehar and to Amnesty International (which I am a member of) as they have continued to expose the Indian Government’s failure to address human rights abuses effectively. I abhor the death penalty and I do not think it has a place in any modern criminal justice system. I strongly believe that it is not an effective deterrent and simply demonstrates contempt for human life.”
Recent Secret Hangings in India
The secrecy in which recent executions were carried out in India has evoked both shock and surprise in the civilized world. Human rights bodies and activist have renewed calls for India to end capital punishment.
India is among a minority of countries which continue to use the death penalty. In total, 140 countries, more than two thirds of the world’s countries, are abolitionist in law or in practice. In 2011, only 21 states in the world executed, meaning that 90 per cent of the world was execution-free.
The campaigners and supporters of Kesri Lehar (Wave for Justice) feel that the scheduled debate on Human Rights violations in the Union of States Government of India will be “a timely debate as India seeks to send many others currently on death row, including Balwant Singh Rajoana and Professor Bhullar who have amassed immense grassroots support”.
UK campaigned to save Afzal Guru – EDM 1330, 23 April 2007
Labour MP John McDonnell also campaigned in the UK to save Afzal Guru. The EDM 1330 was moved asking the Indian President to intervene urgently to use his prerogative of mercy to revoke the death sentence and call an inquiry into Afzal Guru’s conviction. Afzal Guru was hanged secretly on Saturday, February 9, 2013 after his final clemency plea was rejected. Guru had always denied plotting the attack, which left 14 dead in India. Guru’s secret hanging was the second in the last three months in India.