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European Commission

Catherine Ashton

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission

Speech by EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger on behalf of HRVP Catherine Ashton on the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru and its implications

European Parliament/Strasbourg

23 May 2013

Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

We share the concerns expressed by this House on the execution in India of Mr Afzal Guru on 9 February 2013. The High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton issued a statement on Guru's case on 11 February 2013. The statement reiterated the EU's firm and principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances, calling on India to re-establish a moratorium on executions.

It was the second execution after a long period (since 2004) in which no executions were carried out. The first case was the only Mumbai attacker caught alive, Ajmal Kasab, who was hanged in November 2012. At that moment the EU expressed its concern about resumption of executions after a break of eight years.

The EU is deeply concerned that further executions might follow soon, after the rejection by the President of India in recent weeks of a number of mercy petitions. These cases are partly related to terrorism charges, but as well to convictions in murders or rape and murder cases. Some of these cases have attracted a lot of attention by the international community, including Honourable Members of this House.

A particular concern rises from the case of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar whose mental health is affected after waiting for more than a decade for the decision on his mercy plea.

The EU is also concerned at civil society reports about the lack of clarity on criteria in the application of Presidential pardon and a high rate of rejections of mercy pleas.

We have repeatedly stressed our support to India in the fight against terrorism and our readiness to discuss these matters with Delhi. But such a fight must be carried out in the full respect of the rule of law and with the necessary guarantees. Moreover, we remain convinced that the death penalty is no deterrent against common crimes or terrorist acts.

The EU has constantly sought to engage with the Indian authorities on the capital punishment and its application in the country, and will continue doing so. To this end, we must make full use of the Human rights dialogue that takes places locally. We look forward to receiving a date from the Indian government to hold the next meeting, postponed several times in the recent past, as rapidly as possible.

Direct contacts with the Indian government, including by way of diplomatic representations and demarches, will continue too. The EU Delegation in Delhi has been proactively asking the Indian government to set up a meeting to be appraised on the developments on capital punishment in India. Once again, our hope is that such a meeting can take place urgently.

Thank you.

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