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Human Rights in India

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Petition of residents of Coventry and the United Kingdom,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the UK Government should encourage the Indian Union to take immediate action to stop human rights abuses facing minorities in India and that India should sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Charter against torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment which encompasses the death penalty and thus India should abolish the death penalty as it is a cruel, inhumane or degrading form of punishment; further declares that the UK Government should campaign to stop Balwant Singh Rajoana’s death sentence and have him released from jail as he has served 17 years in custody and that the Indian Union should release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and prisoners who have been imprisoned without trial.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to appeal to India for the above actions to be taken, and request that the House holds a debate on these issues and brings them to light in the European Union and United Nations.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Jim Cunningham, Official Report, 27 February 2013; Vol. 559, c. 443.]

[P001157]

Petitions in the same terms were presented by the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) [P001159]; the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) [P001164]; the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) [P001165]; and the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) [P001169].

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; received 26 April 2013:

India has a strong democratic framework, which guarantees human rights within its constitution. However, it also faces numerous challenges relating to its size, social and economic development. The British Government are working with the Indian Government, to build capacity and share expertise to tackle those challenges, including the promotion and protection of human rights.

India is a diverse country, with provisions in place to protect the rights of religious minorities. But when the British Government have concerns about the treatment of minority communities we will raise those concerns with the Indian Government. The British High Commission in New Delhi has discussed minority community issues with the Indian National Commission for Minorities and with other relevant State level authorities. On 7 March 2013, the British High Commissioner in New Delhi, Sir James Bevan, met the Indian Minister for Minorities Mr K Rahman Khan and discussed issues facing all minority communities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire) also raised the issue of human rights and the treatment of minority communities during his recent visit to India on 21 and 22 March 2013.

The petition highlights the fact that India has not ratified the UN Convention Against Torture. During the UN Human Rights Councils Universal Periodic Review of India in May 2012, the UK made a specific recommendation on this issue. The UK recommended that India expedite the ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol, and adopt robust domestic legislation to this effect. The UK also enquired about the Indian Government’s response to concerns about India’s domestic security legislation.

On the issue of India not being a State Party to the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court (ICC), as the FCO Minister of State made clear in Parliament on 28 February 2013 on a debate on the death penalty in India, the British Government are a strong supporter of the ICC and we actively promote universal ratification. The Indian Government, however, have expressed their reservations and said that they do not see ratification of the ICC as a priority.

With regards to the death penalty, the FCO Minister of State said during the aforementioned Parliamentary debate that:

“it remains the British Government’s long-standing policy to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle, and I hope the Indian Government will re-establish a moratorium on executions in line with the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment”.

The FCO Minister of State also reiterated the British Government’s position on the death penalty to Ranjan Mathai, the Foreign Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, when he visited India on 19 February 2013. The UK will also raise our concerns about the death penalty at the next EU-India human rights dialogue.

Balwant Singh Rajoana was granted a stay of execution on 28 March 2012 by the Indian Home Ministry. The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, is considering an appeal for clemency. The UK will continue to monitor this case closely, as we will in all cases where the death penalty has been given as a sentence.

A copy of the FCO Minister of State’s speech can be found at: 28 February 2013, Official Report, column 501.