Archbishop Tutu’s plea to scrap death penalty in India – 3 February 2014

Statement from the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was pleased to learn of the recent judgement of the Supreme Court of India setting aside the death sentences imposed on 15 convicted criminals.

However, while the judgment entrenched the constitutional rights of all citizens of Indian – even those found guilty of heinous crimes – to fair and humane treatment, it stopped short of outlawing the death penalty.

“The ghastly truth is that the primary reason for the court commuting the death penalties in most of these cases was that the prisoners were not executed within a reasonable quick time period,” Archbishop Tutu said.

Appeal processes led to the condemned men spending up to 12 years awaiting execution. The imposition of the death penalty did not entitle authorities to further punish or torture condemned prisoners, the court held. They were entitled to a reasonably quick process.

Archbishop Tutu said: “India is a remarkable country that has many lessons to teach the rest of the world about compassion and our shared humanity. For such a country to continue to legitimise killing is incongruous and unseemly – besides being barbaric.

“The death penalty diminishes the humanity of societies that continue to practice it. God made human beings for inter-dependency and love. What distinguishes us from other species is our intrinsic ability to reach out, reconcile and forgive.

“The death penalty does not address the root causes for anti-social behavior and it does not deter others people from committing crime. It is cruel and inhuman, and should be scrapped,” Archbishop Tutu said.


This statement was issued by Oryx Media for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.