Mason leads calls to halt death penalty re-introduction

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A Glasgow MSP tonight led a Scottish Parliament Members’ debate against reintroducing the death penalty in India and elsewhere in the world.

John Mason, SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow Shettleston, used the debate to call upon the Indian Government not to reintroduce the death penalty and not proceed with the execution of Balwant Singh Rojoana whose execution was put on hold in March 2012 following a mercy petition to India’s President.

The debate also gave Mr Mason and other members of the Parliament and opportunity to reaffirm Scotland’s opposition to the death penalty.

Speaking from Parliament, Mr Mason said:

“I felt it was necessary to raise the specific issue of Balwant Singh Rojoana in India but also the wider issue of the use of the death penalty in countries as widespread as the United States and China.  We in no way condone any crimes that have been committed but we are focussing on the sentence that may or may not be carried out.

“As a Parliament we do not seek to lecture other countries.  But we are part of a family of nations and just as others have the right to challenge us on our decisions, so we have both the right and the responsibility to speak out on fundamental human rights issues on the international stage.

“Across the world most countries are moving away from the death penalty.  I commend the work of Amnesty International.  When they started campaigning against the death penalty in 1977, only 16 countries had abolished it.  Today 141 countries are abolitionist in law or practice.  We have moved on significantly since 1977, now is not the time to take a step back.

“It was hugely important to have unity at Holyrood tonight – and to state together that we support Scotland’s Sikh community in their call for India not to reintroduce the death penalty.”

Surinder Singh, President of Glasgow Gurdwara, added:

“Sikhs around the world are no strangers to human rights violations; as a marginal yet visible group in South-East Asia, Sikhs continue to uphold the values of religious freedom and expression and remain firmly committed to the principles of equality, fairness and justice. 

“Over the past few months the Glasgow Gurdwara, Nithsdale Rd has been campaigning to ensure that the Indian Government does not revert back to using the death penalty and that it stops discrimination towards minority groups. 

“We are delighted that this campaign has the support of Amnesty International in Scotland and that we have been able to debate these issues in parliament. 

“The Glasgow Gurdwara is urging their MSPs and civic Society in Scotland to take action and call on the Indian Government to protect the freedom of all religions, including religious minorities such as Sikhs and to drop the use of the Death Penalty.”