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USA Sikhs Rally For Bhullar At UN Headquarters, Monday July 25


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
This Monday, Sikhs for Justice is organizing a rally at the United Nations Headquarters to call for UN intervention stop India’s planned execution of Professor Devenderpal Singh Bhullar. Professor Bhullar’s brother, Tejinder Singh Bhullar will be addressing the rally. In their appeal to Secretary General Ban Ki moon, Sikhs for Justice is calling upon the U.N. to intervene and free Professor Bhullar based on a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2008 known as Resolution 62/149 which called on all major states to abolish the death penalty. 62/149 is a nonbinding instrument to mark progress on the United Nation’s position that they death penalty undermines human dignity and acknowledges the serious claim that any failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreplaceable.

The death penalty too, runs contrary to Sikh historical positions on capital punishment. The Sarkar-e-Khalsa of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji, followed a no death penalty policy, as M. Gregor in his 1846 ‘History of the Sikhs’ writes. He notes that, ‘[Ranjit Singh] was the exception of Oriental monarchs, and never wantonly inflicted capital punishment and mutilation.’ Other authors describe, that ‘Humanity indeed, or rather a tenderness for life, was a trait in the character of Ranjit Singh. There is no instances of him having wantonly imbued his hands in blood.’ These sentiments that can be seen as consistent Sikh political philosophy captured by the Zafarnama and other documents. Specifically in the Zafarnama, Guru Gobind Singh Ji quotes the Persian poet Firdausi, writing, ‘How nicely the sweet tongued poet Firdausi has said, to act in haste is the work of the devil,’ referring to Aurungzeb’s executions of the youngest Sahibzadas Zorawar and Fateh Singh and Mata Gujri in Sirhind as the act of ‘Sheitan.’

In contemporary human rights discourse, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch cite the arbitrariness of the death penalty, noting that the death penalty is discriminatory and often used against the poor, minorities, and members of racial, ethnic, and religious communities. The death penalty is regarded as is a violation to the right to life as proclaimed by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights Article (5), which proclaims that no one should be subject to torture of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ These organizations also maintain that the death penalty has been and continues to be a tool of political repression, as a means to silence, political opponents and eliminate ‘troublesome’ individuals. Though some nations argue that the death penalty is needed to stop terrorism and political violence, executions are found to increase such acts as they are to stop them, and often perpetuate cycles of violence. The death penalty instead simplifies questions of governance and rule, often detracting from the complex questions of social, political and economic rights that states need to address.

This brings us to the case against Devenderpal Singh Bhullar which remains highly questionable under several accounts. Bhullar was arrested and tried under the draconian Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) (TADA) Acts, which gave power to enforcement agencies for dealing with terrorist and socially disruptive activities. The same TADA Acts that Bhullar was convicted under were subsequently withdrawn because they contained a number of provisions that were inconsistent with international provisions of a fair trial.

During his detention, Bhullar also did not have access to a lawyer, which is mandatory under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is party.

What is most egregious about Bhullar’s case is that, under the same ICCPR rules that India has signed on to, there must be no direct or indirect psychological pressure from authorities when a confession is made, especially torture or mistreatment. Indian law itself holds that any confessions must be made before a judicial magistrate to be accepted as evidence, and those made to police are not acceptable forms of confession. With Bhullar’s application to retract his confession, where he admitted that he was ‘physically mishandled, threatened with extrajudicial execution,’ the court should have ordered a full investigation into Bhullar’s statement of threats, torture and mistreatment. Nothing was done.

Simply put, the courts have failed to investigate Devenderpal Singh’s position that a confession made when he was under treats, torture and duress violating both international conventions as well as India’s own law. Is this really justice?

Please join us Monday from 12 – 2 pm at the United Nations Headquarters (47th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues) to speak up for Bhullar and all those who suffer capital punishment.

Tomorrow Sikhs for Justice is calling on United Nations to urge India to:

Provide the United Nations with information relating to the circumstances Professor Bhullar’s detention, trial and conviction.

Commute the death sentence of Professor Bhullar as per UN Resolution 62/149.

Release Professor Bhullar from custody because his sixteen year long detention shocks the human conscience and dignity.

Speakers include:

Tejinder Singh Bhullar, brother of Devenderpal Singh Bhullar
Lawrence Hayes: Former Death Row Inmate, Co Founder of “Campaign to End Death Penalty” and Member of Hands Off Cain (HOC), an international organization working the abolition of the death penalty.

Jeffrey Deskovic: a victim of brutality and wrongful conviction and an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.

Charles Bell: Peace and Justice Activist from the WESPAC foundation, an organization that works to connect human capital to social and environmental justice work.

The campaign has been endorsed by the campaign to end the Death Penalty, Students Against the Death Penalty, as well as Gurdwaras across North America.

Special shout out New York sangat(!) please come through with all your strength and solidarity for Devenderpal Singh Bhullar and those whose lives are taken because of an unfair trial; Bhullar has been in prison for too long, and deserves to know that we are still a voice of conscience in this world and we stand with him. Please come listen, learn, support and be a part of the movement to #savebhullar