India executes last gunman from Mumbai attacks

The only surviving shooter from the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks was executed at a prison in India Nov. 21 hours after President Pranab Mukherjee finally rejected the gunman’s clemency appeal. Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Kasab was hanged and buried in the prison yard in the central Indian city of Pune just days before the fourth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks. Kasab was convicted in May 2010 on more than 80 charges of waging war against India, multiple murders and conspiracy for his participation in the attacks, during which the group of gunmen killed more than 160 people in three days of targeted assaults on luxury hotels, Mumbai’s main railway station and a Jewish cultural center.

Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights groups decried the hanging as a step backward for the Indian government, which had not carried out an execution since 2004. AI further charged that India violated international standards on the use of the death penalty because Kasab’s lawyer and family in Pakistan were not informed of the decision to execute.

The execution was carried out two days after the UN General Assembly Human Rights Committee adopted its fourth draft resolution calling for a moratorium on executions—110 nations voted in favor of the adoption, and 39 countries, including India and the US, voted against.

One day before Kasab’s execution the Indian Supreme Court criticized the inconsistent application of the court’s own 32-year-old “rarest of rare” standard  (judgment, PDF) for imposition of the death penalty in India: “If the court finds, but not otherwise, that the offence is of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character and constitutes, on account of its design and the manner of its execution, a source of grave danger to the society at large, the court may impose the death sentence.” Nonetheless, the court had already upheld Kasab’s death sentence in August, finding the shootings to be a cross-border terrorist attack warranting “rarest of rare” punishment. The court had stayed the execution in October 2011 after Kasab filed an appeal challenging his death sentence. In February 2011 a lower Indian appeals court also upheld Kasab’s conviction and death sentence.

From Jurist, Nov. 21. Used with permission.