India & the
Struggle for Tamil Eelam
International Appeals against Verdict
in Rajiv Gandhi Assassination
Trial - 1998/99
Amnesty Urgent Action Appeal on Death Sentence - 29 January 1998
Tamil Information Centre Appeal for Commutation of Death Sentence - 8
Amnesty Urgent Action Appeal - Fear of Imminent Execution - 13 October 1999
Tamil Information Centre - Public Statement - 14 October 1999
Amnesty Urgent Action Appeal
29 January 1998
- External AI Index: ASA 20/02/98 UA 32/98
"...Amnesty International is concerned
that 26 people sentenced to death by a special court in
the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on 28 January
1998 may not have received a fair trial according to
international standards for fair trial ..
Twenty-four men and women - 15 Sri Lankan and nine
Indian nationals - were found guilty of conspiracy to
murder the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv
Gandhi. ..Mr Gandhi was killed by a bomb explosion in
Tamil Nadu in May 1991.
under which they were tried - the Terrorist and
Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) -
contravenes several international standards for fair
trial, including the holding of trials in camera and
the non-disclosure of the identity of witnesses.
In addition, although the majority of
those accused were arrested in July 1991,
a charge sheet was not drawn up until May 1992 and a
preliminary trial did not begin until May 1993.
The trial itself took place in January 1994 in the
Poonamallee jail in Madras, designated a special court
under TADA, where many of those sentenced had been
detained for almost seven years since arrest.
INDIA: S Nalini(f) 33 Perarivalan, 24 K
Dhanasekharan, 55 A Athirai(f) 23 Kanagasabapathy, 76 Ranganath, 53
S Bhagiyanathan, 31 S Padma(f) 56 Subha Sundaram, 50 Murugan, 28 Shankar,
30 Irumborai, 35 D Vijayanandan, 47 Sivaruban, 26 Ravichandran, 30
Vicky, 33 Rangan, 30 Suseendran, 27 Santhan, 28 Robert Payas, 31
Bhaskaran, 65 S Jayakumar, 30 Shanthi(f) 30 P Vijayan, 32 V
Selvalakshmi(f)31 Shanmugavadivelu, 53
International is concerned that 26 people sentenced to death by
a special court in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on 28
January 1998 may not have received a fair trial according to
international standards for fair trial and that the judge
involved indicated the sentences were handed down for deterrent
Twenty-four men and women - 15 Sri Lankan and nine Indian
nationals - were found guilty of conspiracy to murder the former Prime Minister
of India, Rajiv Gandhi. A further two Indian nationals were found guilty of
murder. Mr Gandhi was killed by a bomb explosion in Tamil Nadu in May 1991.
legislation under which they were tried - the Terrorist and
Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) - contravenes
several international standards for fair trial, including the
holding of trials in camera and the non-disclosure of the
identity of witnesses.
In addition, although the majority of those accused were
arrested in July 1991, a charge sheet
was not drawn up until May 1992 and a preliminary trial did not begin until
May 1993. The trial itself took place in January 1994 in the Poonamallee jail in
Madras, designated a special court under TADA, where many of those sentenced had
been detained for almost seven years since arrest.
Under TADA, the accused are only able to appeal to the Supreme
Court whereas under normal law they would have the right to appeal to the
High Court before moving to the Supreme Court. Amnesty International is
also concerned that one of the accused, Ms A Athirai, is reported to have
been only 17 years old at the time of her arrest in July 1991. Article 6(5)
of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and
Article 37(a) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that sentence
of death should not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below
eighteen years of age.
Amnesty International unconditionally opposes the use of the
death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the right not to be
subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In a
resolution adopted in April 1997, the UN Commission on Human Rights called on
all states that have not yet abolished the death penalty "to consider
suspending executions, with a view to completely abolishing the death penalty".
The Indian Constitution protects the right to life. India's highest courts
have ruled that the death penalty can only be applied in the "rarest of the
rare" cases. Yet on average a dozen executions are carried out in India
every year for criminal offenses. Most of those executed are the poor and
Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the sentence of
death handed down to 26 men and women on 28 January 1998, following a trial
which Amnesty International believes may not have conformed to international
standards for fair trial. Amnesty International urges that, in hearing the
appeal, the Supreme Court of India should examine the trial and sentencing in
the light of India's obligations under the ICCPR. Amnesty remains
unconditionally opposed to the use of the death penalty in all cases, as a
violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It should also be noted that the
death penalty has never been shown to have a special deterrent effect.
Tamil Information Centre Appeal for Commutation of Death
8 October 1999 - TIC
India's Supreme Court has dismissed the review petition of the four persons
who were sentenced to death in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's murder case.
"All review petitions are dismissed," announced the three-judge bench in its
ruling, leaving the three men and one woman only an appeal to the President for
clemency as a final resort.
On 11 May 1999, the Apex court confirmed the death sentences of four of the 26
people convicted of conspiring to Kill Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally in the
southern state of Tamil Nadu in May 1991. At the same time, it commuted the
sentences of three other people to life imprisonment and further ordered the
release of 19 people.
The four accused, S Nalini, Suthenthirarajah alias Santhan, Sriharan alias
Murugan and Perarivalan alias Arivu, were originally to be hanged on June 9, but
the execution was deferred after they filed a review petition to the Supreme
The Tamil Information Centre (TIC) appeals to the President of India for
clemency for, S Nalini, Suthenthirarajah, Sriharan and Perarivalan, taking into
consideration the acquittal of the four by the Supreme Court of offences under
the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and end the use
of death penalty in India.
The TIC also wishes to express its concern that the confirmation of death
sentences followed a trial under TADA, a law that has been widely criticised
nationally as well as internationally for its provisions that denied the right
to a fair trial and which has now lapsed. The death sentence to the 26 people in
January 1998 is said to have been based on the presumption that it would serve
as a deterrent.
International standards have also developed in such a way as to exclude more and
more categories of people from those against whom the death penalty might be
used in countries which have not abolished it. The exclusion of "new mothers" is
widely observed in practice. Nalini is a new mother having given birth while in
While considering death penalty as an inhuman punishment, constitutes a serious
threat to the enjoyment of the right to life and should have no place in the
penal systems of modern civilised societies, the Tamil Information Centre wishes
to encourage you to send faxes and letters to:
President K R Narayanan
Office of the President
New Delhi 110 001, India
Fax: 00 91 11 301 7290
To commute the death sentences passed on S Nalini, Suthenthirarajah, Sriharan
and Perarivalan, indicating Nalini's position as a new mother.
2. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
South Block Gate No. 6
New Delhi 110 001
Fax: 00 91 11 301 9817
To abolish the death penalty as recommended by the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights resolution 1998/8 of 3 April 1998, expressing that the death
penalty violates the right to life.
3. In addition, to diplomatic representatives of Indian government accredited to
4. Send Copies to:
Ms Mary Robinson
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palai des Nations, 8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: 00 41 22 9170213
Tamil Information Centre
720 Romford Road
Telephone: + 44(0) 181 514 6390
Fax: + 44(0) 181 514 0164
Amnesty Urgent Action Appeal -
13 October 1999 - External AI Index: AI Index: ASA 20/34/99
S Nalini (f) 34
Amnesty International fears that S Nalini, Murugan, Santhan
and Perarivalan are in danger of imminent execution after the Supreme Court
of India dismissed a review petition filed by them on 8 October 1999. Their
only chance now lies with an appeal for clemency with the President who will
make a decision after taking advice from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
They were originally scheduled to be executed on 9 June but
this was deferred when they filed the review petition to the Supreme Court.
The four were sentenced to death in January 1998, together
with 22 others, for murder and conspiracy to murder the former Prime
Minister of India, Mr Rajiv Gandhi, in 1991. Mr Gandhi was killed by a bomb
explosion in Tamil Nadu in May 1991. The other 22 had their sentences
quashed or commuted on appeal. Amnesty International believes they did not
receive a fair trial according to international standards for fair trial.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty
unconditionally as an extreme form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
and a violation of the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights
The Indian Constitution protects the right to life. India's
highest courts have ruled that the death penalty can only be applied in the
'rarest of rare' cases. Because this is not further defined and no clear
guidelines exist, this means that the use of the death penalty in India
depends to a large extent on how individual judges interpret this phrase. On
average a dozen executions are carried out in India every year for criminal
offenses. Most of those executed are the poor and illiterate.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION:
Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in English
or in your own language:
- expressing concern at the Supreme Court's decision to turn
down the review petition filed by S Nalini, Murugan, Santhan and
- urging the President to exercise his power of clemency under
Article 72 of the Constitution of India to commute the death sentences;
- expressing unconditional opposition to the death penalty as
a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and emphasising that the death
penalty has never been shown to have a special deterrent effect;
- reminding the authorities of the United Nations (UN)
Commission on Human Rights' recommendation that governments hold a
moratorium on executions;
- urging them also, in the light of positive steps being taken
worldwide to abolish the death penalty, to commute all outstanding death
sentences and take steps to remove the death penalty from all legislation.
Mr K. R. Narayanan President of India Office of the President
Rashtrapati Bhavan New Delhi 110 004, India Telegrams: President, New Delhi,
India Faxes: + 91 11 301 7290 Salutation: Dear President Narayanan
Minister of Home Affairs Ministry of Home Affairs North Block,
New Delhi 110 001, India Telegrams: Minister Home Affairs, New Delhi, India
Faxes: + 91 11 301 5750 Salutation: Dear Minister
COPIES TO: Justice A S Anand Chief Justice of India Supreme
Court of India Tilak Marg New Delhi 110 001 India and to diplomatic
representatives of India accredited to your country
Tamil Information Centre - Public Statement
- 14 October 1999 - TIC
Appealing for clemency and calling for an end to the Death Penalty is the
right thing to do.
The Tamil Information Centre (TIC)
made an appeal on 8 October 1999, for clemency and commutation of the death
sentence on four people in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case. The TIC's appeal for
clemency was in furtherance of a commitment to the value and dignity of human
life and the belief that human life is sacred. In this respect, the killing of
the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and 16 others including nine police
officers in Sriperumpudur in Tamil Nadu in India on 21 May 1991 was equally
callous and cruel and the offenders deserve to be punished.
The TIC views the imposition of the death penalty as involving both,
"profound legal and political questions" as well as "important moral issues."
The TIC appeal was only a reflection of the moral and legal questions that
trouble many. It is our view that in confronting the problem of serious and
violent crime in our societies, we must bear in mind that crime is both a
manifestation of the great mysteries of evil and human freedom and an aspect of
the very complex reality that is contemporary society. We cannot and should not
expect simple or easy solutions to what is a profoundly cruel, and even less
should we rely on the death penalty to provide such a solution. Rather, we must
look to other means for claims of justice.
While accepting that it is morally unsatisfactory and socially destructive
for offenders to go unpunished, we believe that the forms and limits of
punishment must be determined by moral objectives which go beyond the mere
inflicting of injury or taking one's life. We should be aware that inflicting
the death penalty is irrevocable in a way that other punishments are not.
Execution of innocent persons should be avoided at all cost. We further believe
that the forms of punishment must be determined with a view to the protection of
the society and its members and also to reform offenders and reintegrate them
into society, though we do agree that this may not be possible in certain cases.
While accepting that the Indian government has the right to take appropriate
measures to protect itself and its citizens from grave harm, nevertheless, the
question for judgement and decision today is whether the death sentence is
justifiable under present circumstances. We believe that such a punishment might
satisfy certain vindictive and political desires, but the satisfaction of such
desires is not and cannot be an objective of a humane approach to punishment.
Legally, concerns have been raised by numerous civil and human rights
institutions both within and outside India on the conduct of the case under the
notorious Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act popularly known
as TADA which came into force in 1985. The Act was severely criticised for its
draconian nature and on such recognition finally was allowed to lapse by the
Indian government in 1995.
It should be noted that not only the Tamil Information Centre but also
several other national and international human rights organisations have
appealed for commutation of the death sentences and end the use of the death
penalty in India.
Amnesty International has pointed out in its appeal that the imposition of
the death sentence is a retrograde step for human rights in India, while
positive steps are being taken worldwide towards abolition and in view of the
call by the UN Human Rights Commission for a moratorium on executions. Amnesty
International has expressed concern that while Nalini, Murugan, Perarivalan and
Santhan were acquitted by the Supreme court of offences under the Tada, the
court failed to consider the incompatibility of certain provisions of TADA with
the international standards for fair trial when it held that their trial under
those provisions should not be called into question.
To confirm sentences of death after a trial held under provisions of a law
which has now lapsed following widespread criticism from national and
international human rights bodies that it denied the right to a fair trial, is
manifestly unsound. This is the view held by many organisations including
Amnesty International. The lawyers representing the accused have constantly
argued that the state machinery was guilty of suppressing evidence favorable to
the accused, deceiving the trial court and knowingly using perjured testimony.
The death penalty, like in Rajiv Gandhi's murder case, is also advanced as a
justifying objective of punishment since it serves as a deterrent for others.
Empirical studies in this area have not given any conclusive evidence that would
justify the imposition of the death penalty as a means of preventing others from
committing crime. There are strong reasons to doubt that many crimes of violence
are undertaken in a spirit of rational calculation which would be influenced by
a remote threat of death and so undercuts the effectiveness of the deterrent.
The protection of society and its members from violence to which the deterrent
effect of punishment is supposed to contribute, is a central value of abiding
importance. It requires prudent firmness and not taking of life in legitimate
self-defense or in defense of society.
We maintain that commuting the death sentences of the four and the abolition
of the death penalty in India would promote values that are important to us, the
citizens of India and the world community. It is appropriate here to say that by
unique historic tradition and great achievements, particularly in the fields of
religion, literature and philosophy, India has always shone as a beacon and many
the world look to India for moral guidance.
We believe that the abolition of death penalty will confirm that we need not
take life for life, that we can envisage more humane and more hopeful and
effective responses to such violent crimes. It is a manifestation of our freedom
as moral persons striving for a just society. It is also a challenge, as
concerned individuals to find ways of dealing with gross human rights abuses
that manifest intelligence and compassion rather than power and vengeance.
We do not propose the abolition death penalty as an easy and simple solution
to the problems of violence. But as we have stated above, we do not believe that
any simple and comprehensive solution is possible. We affirm that killing is
wrong and all acts of violence need to be condemned when it destroys lives,
shatters families, and crushes the hopes of the innocent. There is a special
need to offer sympathy and redress for the victims of violence and their
families. But, recognition of this sympathy and support should not lead to
demands for vengeance, but to a firm resolution to offer help to the victims and
that justice is done fairly and swiftly.
We call on those who have taken "an eye for an eye" and, " a life for a life"
views in response to the TIC appeal, to review their considerations in light of
what we have said and appeal to the President of India to commute the sentences
passed on S Nalini, Suthenthirarajah, Sriharan and Perarivalan. There is no
doubt that participation in the appeal for clemency and abolition of the death
sentence would contribute to justice, positive changes in procedures and
strengthening of humanitarianism in conformity with the traditions of India.