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UN calls on India to end arbitrary executions

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns on Friday called on India's government to take stronger measures to end extrajudicial and arbitrary executions [press release]. While commending India for its willingness to listen to new ideas and improve in the area of human rights, Heyns said at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to the country that there is evidence that the Indian police has been creating "fake encounters," where they create a shoot-out in which a targeted person is killed. After the shoot-out is over, the targeted person is painted as the aggressor, so the police can claim he or she was killed in self-defense. Heyns believes the main reason these encounters happen is that there is a high level of impunity given to police officers and prosecutions are hard to obtain through the legal process. He also expressed concern over a number of other questionable execution practices, such as killing of "witches" and honor killings. Heyns encouraged the Indian government to ratify international treaties, such as the Convention Against Torture [text] and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances [text], and to work with other countries and develop policies to prevent these types of executions.

India has been under fire lately for its human rights and execution practices. Last week, Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged India to stop [JURIST report] its first formal execution since 2004 and abolish the death penalty. In January, Human Rights Watch called on India to prosecute soldiers for torture and extrajudicial executions on its Bangladesh border. The country has, however, made some positive strides in support of human rights in the last few years. In May, the India high court approved of the death penalty for honor killings [JURIST report] in an attempt to put an end to them. The high court also found last year that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to counsel [JURIST report].

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