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Right to life in the context of death penalty
United Nations Human Rights Committee held half a day General Discussion on the preparation for a General Comment on Article 6 (Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on Wednesday at the Palais des Nations. The Rapporteurs on the General Comment, Yuval Shany and Sir Nigel Rodley had already framed a note (CCPR/C/GC/R.36) which identifies the issues.
For the purpose of the discussion, on 9th June 2015, Delhi-based the Asian Centre for Human Rights had made a written submission "The Right to life in the context of death penalty".

ACHR's submission is restricted to (i) Article 6, paragraph 1 relating to arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, (ii) Article 6, paragraph 2, interalia, relating to final judgement and competent court and (iii) Article 6, paragraph 4 relating to pardon and commutation of the sentence.

The summary of the ACHR's submission are reproduced below:

First, imposition of death penalty without complying with the ICCPR constitutes arbitrary deprivation of the right to life as provided under Article 6, paragraph 1 of the ICCPR. The death penalty cases which could be considered as arbitrary deprivation of the right to life are: mandatory death sentencing; imposition of death penalty by the courts without procedural guarantees commonly available under national laws consistent with the ICCPR and as per Article 14 of the ICCPR; execution without exhausting all legal remedies including review of the decisions pertaining to pardon and commutation by the competent court; and execution in violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination. Arbitrary deprivation of the right to life need not be committed by the security forces only but by the judiciary too.

Second, 'final judgement' as provided in Article 6, Para 2, should be read with access to pardon and commutation. The finality of the conclusion of finding an accused guilty of an offence punishable with death by the highest court of the country is not necessarily the "final judgement". Considering that seeking pardon and commutation is recognized as a right under Article 6, paragraph 4, its violation must be subject to judicial review. Therefore, "final judgement" under Article 6, Para 2, should mean "final judgement" delivered after reviewing rejection of mercy plea.

A court established by national law is not necessarily the 'competent court'. A 'court' cannot be considered as 'competent' unless the trial complies with the fair trial standards provided in the ICCPR and the court itself meets the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

Third, as stated above seeking 'pardon and commutation' is recognized as a right under Article 6, paragraph 4. The consideration of this right i.e. the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence' cannot be arbitrary. Therefore, the process and decisions on pardon and commutation must be subject to judicial review.

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