India

 

  • INDIA: “Las organizaciones de la sociedad civil que se atreven a decirle la verdad al poder son atacadas”

    Mrinal SharmaCIVICUS habla con la abogada e investigadora de derechos humanos Mrinal Sharma acerca del estado de las libertades cívicas en India. Mrinal trabaja ayudando a personas defensoras de derechos humanos ilegalmente detenidas y a solicitantes de asilo, refugiados y apátridas en India. Trabajó como Asesora de Políticsa en Amnistía Internacional India hasta que el gobierno de este país obligó a la organización a cerrar en octubre de 2020. Su trabajo con Amnistía se enfocó en las personas privadas arbitrariamente de su nacionalidad en Assam, en las barreras para el acceso a la justicia en Cachemira y en la demonización de las minorías en toda India. Mrinal había trabajado anteriormente en la Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative y en la Refugee Solidarity Network.

    ¿Se están volviendo más restrictivas las condiciones para ejercer las libertades de asociación, reunión pacífica y expresión bajo el gobierno del primer ministro Narendra Modi?

    Ciertamente, el espacio cívico en la India ha experimentado un deterioro gradual bajo el gobierno de Modi. El 90% de los delitos de odio perpetrados en la última década se produjeron después de 2014, es decir, durante el gobierno de Modi. Según la base de datos sobre sedición de Artículo 14, desde 2010 11.000 personas han sido acusadas de sedición en la India. El 96% de los casos de sedición iniciados desde 2010 por criticar al gobierno nacional y a sus líderes fueron iniciados durante el gobierno de Modi. La India no es ajena a la tendencia al bloqueo deliberado del acceso a internet y ostenta el récord de haber impuesto el mayor número de bloqueos de internet en todo el mundo. Según el Internet Shutdown Tracker del Software Freedom Legal Centre, la cantidad de bloqueos de internet ha aumentado constantemente desde 2014. Estos alcanzaron su punto máximo en 2019, lo cual dio cuenta del prolongado apagón de las comunicaciones impuesto por el gobierno indio en Jammu y Cachemira. Además, entre 2012 y 2020, 148 de los 385 bloqueos de internet fueron impuestos para contener “situaciones de orden público” en curso, un eufemismo que suele utilizarse en referencia a las protestas pacíficas. Estos datos indican la magnitud de las restricciones impuestas sobre las libertades de asociación, reunión pacífica y expresión en la India.

    Además, el uso de leyes restrictivas tales como la Ley de Prevención de Actividades Ilegales (UAPA), la Ley de Seguridad Nacional, la Ley de Seguridad Pública y otras leyes de detención preventiva para frenar las protestas contra las políticas discriminatorias del gobierno también se ha convertido en algo habitual. Ni siquiera esta virulenta pandemia ha disuadido al gobierno indio de detener o mantener detenidas a personas defensoras de derechos humanos de avanzada edad o en mal estado de salud, a pesar de la situación de hacinamiento en las cárceles. En julio de 2020, Varavara Rao, un poeta y activista de 81 años que fue acusado en virtud de la UAPA por su presunta participación en actos de violencia ocurridos durante las celebraciones de Bhima Koregaon en 2018, dio positivo para el COVID-19 mientras estaba detenido en una prisión superpoblada de Maharashtra. Tras pasar más de dos años y medio detenido a la espera de juicio y de realizar múltiples intentos fallidos para obtener la libertad bajo fianza, recientemente fue puesto en libertad por seis meses en consideración de su precario estado de salud. Del mismo modo, Safoora Zargar, una investigadora académica que estaba embarazada de tres meses fue acusada bajo la UAPA y detenida en otra prisión superpoblada de Delhi por protestar pacíficamente contra la Ley de Enmienda de la Ciudadanía (CAA). Fue necesario llevar a cabo una intensa campaña pública internacional, nacional y local para que fuera puesta en libertad bajo fianza. Muchos estudiantes siguen detenidos.

    La pandemia ha sido utilizada para activar leyes draconianas de “emergencia”. Estas leyes otorgan amplios poderes al gobierno para detener y encarcelar a cualquiera que infrinja el confinamiento punitivo impuesto para frenar la propagación del virus. Estas leyes fueron aplicadas en forma arbitraria contra periodistas, trabajadores esenciales y personas pertenecientes a grupos excluidos. Algunos fueron incluso torturados y asesinados mientras estaban bajo custodia policial. Según un informe reciente del Proyecto de Justicia Penal y Responsabilidad Policial, la mayoría de los informes contravencionales elevados durante el confinamiento en el estado de Madhya Pradesh fueron contra peatones, y en particular contra vendedores ambulantes y personas en vehículos de dos ruedas, lo cual dejó en evidencia la aplicación discriminatoria de las leyes de emergencia.

    Cabe señalar que la aplicación de estas leyes es un hilo conductor que une a sucesivos gobiernos. La mayoría de estas leyes fueron aprobadas por el gobierno anterior; el gobierno actual simplemente las ha utilizado para atacar a grupos sociales específicos.

    ¿Cuáles son los principales motivos que dan cuenta de los ataques contra activistas y organizaciones de la sociedad civil (OSC)?

    La sociedad civil desempeña un rol muy importante a la hora de acortar distancias entre derechos y derechohabientes. Al hacer ese trabajo, también comprende los defectos de los sistemas sociales y económicos y tiene poder para cambiar el statu quo exigiendo el fin de las desigualdades y desmantelando las estructuras de poder existentes, cosa que ha hecho con éxito en el pasado. Los líderes políticos demonizan a las OSC, desacreditan su trabajo y experiencia y las convierten en chivos expiatorios en función de sus creencias políticas para adquirir poder y beneficiarse políticamente.

    Estos constantes ataques adoptan la forma de restricciones ilegales y uso de términos vagos e imprecisos para describir a las personas defensoras de derechos humanos, a los manifestantes pacíficos y a sus motivaciones, y así moldear a la opinión pública. Entre esos términos se cuentan los de “antinacional”, “naxal urbano” y el más reciente “aandolanjivis” (manifestantes profesionales). Las OSC también son descritas como portadoras de una “ideología extranjera destructiva”, como una elite corrupta y como ese “otro” que trabaja contra el pueblo, mientras que quienes lideran esta demonización son presentados como representantes de ese “pueblo”. Esto aviva aún más las hostilidades entre grupos sociales, distrae al público de las verdaderas taras de la sociedad y habilita la adopción de políticas discriminatorias. Además, la restricción selectiva del derecho de las personas a las libertades de expresión y asociación con el objeto de silenciar las críticas y perpetuar la narrativa del gobierno también conduce efectivamente a la polarización, que es un terreno fértil para promover agendas políticas estrechas.

    ¿Qué cuestiones de derechos humanos son las que más preocupan a Amnistía Internacional en la India?

    La flagrante criminalización del disenso en la India sigue siendo muy preocupante. Las interrupciones masivas de Internet, el uso excesivo, innecesario y a menudo ilegal de la fuerza por parte de la policía y las detenciones ilegales en virtud de las leyes antiterroristas se han convertido en algo demasiado habitual. Dan prueba de ello la respuesta de mano dura del gobierno frente a las protestas pacíficas contra la decisión unilateral de despojar a Jammu y Cachemira de su autonomía constitucionalmente garantizada, en medio de un apagón total de las comunicaciones, la promulgación de la discriminatoria CAA y, más recientemente, la aprobación de tres leyes agrícolas que pretenden desregular la agricultura en la India.

    Desde septiembre de 2020, más de 160 agricultores han muerto mientras protestaban pacíficamente contra las leyes agrícolas. Muchos jóvenes activistas que apoyan a los agricultores están detenidos bajo cargos de sedición. Al menos 50 personas murieron en los disturbios que estallaron en el noreste de Delhi en febrero de 2020. Además, la burbuja de noticias falsas y desinformación facilitada por los modelos de negocios de las grandes empresas tecnológicas, que están basados en la vigilancia, combinada con marcos débiles para la protección de los datos, alimenta constantemente la política de demonización en la India.

    También son preocupantes las represalias del Estado contra quienes denuncian violaciones y delitos de casta, así como la impunidad generalizada por los asesinatos y ataques contra minorías religiosas perpetrados por turbas de civiles armados y policías. A modo de ejemplo, a pesar de las pruebas irrefutables, grabadas en video, que muestran la complicidad de agentes de policía en los disturbios producidos en el noreste de Delhi en febrero de 2020, hasta ahora no hay ningún policía procesado. Al mismo tiempo que se ignoran sistemáticamente la violencia y el discurso de odio de los partidarios de la CAA, los manifestantes contrarios a la CAA siguen siendo acosados e intimidados por el gobierno.

    ¿Podría contarnos acerca de la Ley de Regulación de las Contribuciones Extranjeras (FCRA) y su impacto sobre la sociedad civil?

    La FCRA regula las donaciones extranjeras en la India. Ostensiblemente, fue promulgada para regular las donaciones extranjeras a los partidos políticos y controlar la influencia extranjera en las elecciones indias. Enmendada en múltiples ocasiones desde su aprobación en 2010, se ha convertido en un arma eficaz en manos del gobierno para sofocar a la sociedad civil india. Su versión más reciente impone restricciones discriminatorias al acceso de las OSC a financiamiento, imponiendo procedimientos de autorización onerosos, altamente burocráticos y difíciles de realizar. Desde 2011, según lo admite el propio gobierno, se han cancelado las licencias de más de 20.000 OSC. Las organizaciones que se atreven a decirle la verdad al poder o a cuestionar las violaciones de derechos humanos, como es el caso de Amnistía Internacional India, son atacadas con la FCRA mediante acusaciones motivadas políticamente.

    La última modificación de la FCRA, aprobada en plena pandemia, ha ahogado aún más a la sociedad civil. Prohíbe que los funcionarios públicos reciban fondos extranjeros; prohíbe la transferencia de fondos extranjeros de una organización o individuo a otro, más allá de que cuenten con licencia bajo la FCRA; reduce el límite de utilización del rubro de “gastos administrativos” del 50% al 20%; amplía el periodo de suspensión de la licencia para OSC otorgada por la FCRA de 180 días a un año; y establece que las contribuciones extranjeras solo pueden ser recibidas mediante una cuenta bancaria de la OSC marcada por la FCRA en una sucursal designada del banco estatal situada en Delhi.

    Estas enmiendas estigmatizarán efectivamente la asociación de funcionarios públicos con organizaciones sin fines de lucro, ahogarán las colaboraciones entre OSC y, en particular, aquellas que involucren a OSC más pequeñas y de base, reducirán los fondos asignados para pagar sueldos del personal y realizar proyectos en el terreno que conlleven gastos de viaje, y privarán a las OSC de fondos hasta que el gobierno complete su investigación por presuntas violaciones a la FCRA. También obstaculizarán el trabajo de las OSC que tienen su sede fuera de Nueva Delhi, que constituyen aproximadamente el 93% de s las OSC registradas en la India, ya que imponen innecesarios gastos de viaje, los cuales además se contarían dentro del límite de 20% para gastos administrativos.

    El gobierno tiene la obligación de justificar la imposición de estas estrictas restricciones y la vulneración de los derechos humanos de las personas y organizaciones a asociarse y expresarse libremente. Tiene que demostrar que estas restricciones son realmente legítimas, razonables y proporcionales al daño que buscan evitar, pero no lo ha hecho. De hecho, hizo caso omiso de los reclamos de la sociedad civil para que el proyecto de ley fuera sometido a un comité de personas expertas para generar mayor debate antes de su aprobación. El debate en el Parlamento también fue mínimo.

    La FCRA y sus enmiendas más recientes han sido muy criticadas por la comunidad internacional, y por personalidades como Maina Kiai, ex Relator Especial de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) sobre los derechos a la libertad de reunión pacífica y de asociación, y Michelle Bachelet, Alta Comisionada de la ONU para los derechos humanos, por ser demasiado amplias y vagas. Pero el gobierno no ha hecho caso. A nivel nacional, la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) también ha pedido explicaciones por la cancelación masiva de licencias de la FCRA para las OSC.

    Paradójicamente, los partidos políticos siguen recibiendo fondos extranjeros, lo cual antes estaba prohibido, y lo hacen con mínimas restricciones. De hecho, a pesar de que los partidos políticos violan recurrentemente la FCRA, ahora no solamente les resulta más fácil recibir fondos, sino que además el proceso se ha vuelto mucho más opaco. A modo de ejemplo, en 2014 el Tribunal Superior de Delhi dictaminó que el partido gobernante, Bharatiya Janata, y el Congreso Nacional Indio habían violado la FCRA al aceptar fondos extranjeros. En 2016 y luego en 2018, el gobierno indio modificó la FCRA para legalizar el financiamiento extranjero para los partidos políticos y eximir a éstos del escrutinio no solo de los fondos que les llegaran en el futuro, sino también de los que ya les habían sido donados en el pasado. En diciembre de 2020, la Comisión Central de Información, a cargo de la implementación de la Ley de Derecho a la Información de 2005, dictaminó que la revelación pública de la identidad de los donantes de los partidos políticos no sirve a ningún interés público, y por lo tanto no es necesaria.

    Esta clara diferencia entre el trato que reciben los partidos políticos y las OSC debería bastar para entender las turbias motivaciones subyacentes a la FCRA.

    ¿Por qué Amnistía India fue obligada a cerrar, y cuáles han sido las consecuencias?

    Amnistía Internacional India se vio obligada a cerrar como represalia por la publicación de dos informes críticos que ponían de manifiesto la situación de derechos humanos en Cachemira y destacaban el papel de la policía de Delhi en los disturbios que tuvieron lugar en el noreste de Delhi en febrero de 2020. Poco después de que publicara estos informes, todas sus cuentas bancarias fueron congeladas. El gobierno no proporcionó ninguna advertencia ni aviso previo, ni ofreció ninguna razón para congelar las cuentas bancarias. Al no poder acceder a los fondos que había recaudado localmente, a partir de contribuciones de la ciudadanía india, Amnistía Internacional India se vio obligada a suspender todas sus actividades y a despedir a todo su personal.

    Para Amnistía Internacional India el acoso y la intimidación a causa de su trabajo de derechos humanos no era ninguna novedad. Desde 2016 enfrentaba una incesante campaña de desprestigio por parte del gobierno y de los medios de comunicación afines al gobierno. En 2018 soportó un allanamiento de 10 horas de duración por parte de la Dirección de Ejecución, tras el cual se vio obligada a despedir a varios miembros de su personal, lo cual afectó negativamente a su trabajo en la India, y en particular a su labor con comunidades excluidas. Aunque los tribunales emitieron una medida cautelar en favor de la organización, su buen funcionamiento se vio dificultado por la persecución mediática y la reducción de sus capacidades. Es importante señalar que hasta el día de hoy no se han presentado acusaciones formales contra la organización. Un año después, en noviembre de 2019, en medio de rumores de la inminente detención de sus altos funcionarios, las oficinas de Amnistía Internacional India y la residencia de uno de sus directores volvieron sufrir allanamientos, esta vez por parte de la Oficina Central de Investigación, la principal agencia de investigación del país, dependiente del gobierno central. Sin embargo, la organización siguió trabajando, desafiando estos ataques contra ella y sus empleados.

    Pero esta vez los ataques fueron más encarnizados. El impacto inmediato del cierre ha recaído sobre el personal de Amnistía Internacional India -investigadores, responsables de campañas, recaudadores de fondos-, que perdieron sus empleos de la noche a la mañana sin recibir ninguna indemnización, en el contexto de una recesión económica que se ha visto agravada por la pandemia. Los grandes proyectos de investigación y las campañas que llevaba a cabo Amnistía Internacional India se han paralizado. Habría que dejarle en claro al gobierno indio que, con la excusa de sujetar a controles a una supuesta “entidad extranjera”, todo lo que ha hecho es privar de sus medios de vida a muchos de sus propios ciudadanos. Y, lo que es aún más importante, ahora hay una voz menos exigiendo al gobierno indio que rinda cuentas de sus excesos y su inacción.

    ¿Hay otras organizaciones de derechos humanos que estén enfrentando desafíos similares?

    Varias OSC que han cuestionado o criticado las políticas del gobierno han enfrentado desafíos similares en relación con la FCRA. People’s Watch, Indian Social Action Forum, Hazards Centre, Greenpeace India, Sabrang Trust, Navsarjan Trust, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, Indian Social Action Forum y Lawyers Collective son algunos de los grupos que han recibido acusaciones motivadas políticamente en virtud de la FCRA. Esto no es un accidente. Existe un patrón deliberado de silenciamiento de los grupos de derechos humanos mediante su trato como empresas criminales y la presentación de los disidentes como delincuentes. Lawyers Collective, por ejemplo, ha trabajado ampliamente con las víctimas de los ataques contra musulmanes de 2002 en Gujarat. People’s Watch ha hecho activamente campaña contra los abusos contra personas detenidas. Greenpeace India ha estado a la vanguardia de la lucha por el derecho a la tierra y contra el cambio climático y el impacto medioambiental de la minería del carbón.

    Además de la FCRA, otras leyes draconianas contribuyen a crear un entorno incapacitante para la labor de derechos humanos en India. Entre ellas están la UAPA, la Ley de Seguridad Pública y la Ley de Seguridad Nacional. Anunciadas como leyes antiterroristas o leyes que castigan “delitos contra el Estado”, han creado un sistema de impunidad y constituyen herramientas eficaces para mantener a la gente en la cárcel durante períodos prolongados. El índice de condenas en virtud de estas leyes es realmente bajo. Según la Oficina Nacional de Registros de Delitos, en 2018 más del 93% de los casos iniciados bajo la UAPA seguían pendientes de tratamiento en los tribunales, mientras que la tasa de condenas en virtud de la UAPA era de apenas 27%. Desde 2016, solo siete casos de sedición han terminado en condena. Según una investigación anterior de Amnistía Internacional India, alrededor del 58% de las órdenes de detención dictadas entre 2007 y 2016 en virtud de la Ley de Seguridad Pública, que se aplica en Jammu y Cachemira y permite la detención administrativa sin acusaciones ni juicio, fueron anuladas por el Tribunal Superior de Jammu y Cachemira. Entre marzo de 2016 y julio de 2017, el 81% de las órdenes de detención fueron anuladas. Esto demuestra que estas leyes son utilizadas para privar a las personas de su libertad de movimiento y de expresión durante el tiempo en que sus casos avanzan en los tribunales.

    ¿Qué puede hacer la comunidad internacional para apoyar a los grupos de derechos humanos y ampliar el espacio cívico en la India?

    En términos generales, la comunidad internacional debe amplificar las voces de quienes están al frente de la lucha contra las violaciones de derechos humanos en la India. Al mismo tiempo, debe dejar de asumir una posición moral elevada y desestimar las preocupaciones de la gente, reales o proyectadas, sobre la seguridad, el bienestar y el desarrollo. En cambio, debe centrarse en combatir el discurso que transforma a la sociedad civil en un “otro” rechazado y proyectar una visión de un mundo más justo, sostenible y equitativo – un mundo no puede lograrse en ausencia de una sociedad civil robusta que trabaje sin descanso para la gente a lo largo y a lo ancho del país. También debe mantenerse más cerca de las comunidades locales.

    En concreto, debe lograr que el Estado indio se responsabilice por todas las obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos que ha respaldado y aprobado y en las que se basa, mientras pelea por tener un lugar más importante en la mesa. Han pasado 24 años desde que India presentó al Comité de Derechos Humanos de la ONU un informe sobre el cumplimiento de sus obligaciones en virtud del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, del cual es Estado parte. La CNDH, el principal órgano de vigilancia de los derechos humanos de la India, no alcanza los niveles mínimos establecidos por los Principios de París para las instituciones nacionales de derechos humanos, pero sigue manteniendo una acreditación de categoría A y, por lo tanto, puede participar en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU. La comunidad internacional debe exigir sistemáticamente la reforma de la CNDH y exigirle que rinda cuentas de la disminución de la protección de que gozan las personas defensoras de derechos humanos en la India. Los grupos de derechos humanos deberían poder confiar plenamente en las instituciones de derechos humanos de su país.

    El espacio cívico en India es calificado de “represivo” por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Siga las actualizaciones de Amnistía Internacional sobre la India a través de susitio web.

     

  • India: Amnesty International Forced to Halt Work

    Government Increasingly Targeting Rights Groups

    Today, CIVICUS joined fourteen other human rights organizations in condemning the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

    Amnesty International India announced that it is halting its work in the country after the Indian government froze its bank accounts in an act of reprisal for the organization’s human rights work. Fifteen international human rights organizations condemned the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India and pledged to continue support for local human rights defenders and organizations against the recent crackdown.

    The Indian government’s actions against Amnesty India are part of increasingly repressive tactics to shut down critical voices and groups working to promote, protect, and uphold fundamental rights, said the Association for Progressive Communications, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, FORUM-ASIA, Foundation the London Story, Hindus for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, International Service for Human Rights, Minority Rights Group, Odhikar, South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

    The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has accused Amnesty India of violating laws on foreign funding, a charge the group says is politically motivated and constitutes evidence “that the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights defenders and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

    The BJP government has increasingly cracked down on civil society, harassing and bringing politically motivated cases against human rights defenders, academics, student activists, journalists, and others critical of the government under sedition, terrorism, and other repressive laws.

    These actions increasingly mimic that of authoritarian regimes, which do not tolerate any criticism and shamelessly target those who dare to speak out. With growing criticism of the government’s discriminatory policies and attacks on the rule of law, the authorities seem more interested in shooting the messenger than addressing the grievances. Women’s rights activists and indigenous and minority human rights defenders have been especially vulnerable. The recent action against Amnesty India highlights the stepped-up pressure and violence felt by local defenders on the ground, regardless of their profile.

    The authorities have repeatedly used foreign funding regulations under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law broadly condemned for violating international human rights law and standards, to target outspoken groups. United Nations experts on human rights defenders, on freedom of expression, and on freedom of association have urged the government to repeal the law, saying it is “being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”

    Yet, the Indian parliament amended the FCRA this month, adding further onerous governmental oversight, additional regulations and certification processes, and operational requirements that would adversely affect civil society groups and effectively restrict access to foreign funding for small nongovernmental organizations.

    A robust, independent, and vocal civil society is indispensable in any democracy to ensure a check on government and to hold it accountable, pushing it to do better. Instead of treating human rights groups as its enemies, the government should work with them to protect the rights of all people and ensure accountability at all levels of government.


    Civic space in India is currently rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    New report: Punished for speaking up: The ongoing use of restrictive laws to silence dissent in India


    For more information please contact:

    Head of Advocacy & Campaigns, David Kode

     

  • India: Arbitrarily detained Kashmiri prisoners must be freed 

    While recent steps taken by Indian authorities to decongest prisons in an effort to contain the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak are welcome, the Government should release all unjustly detained prisoners as a matter of priority.

    The fate of hundreds of arbitrarily detained Kashmiri prisoners hangs in the balance as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in India passes the 4,000 mark and many more are likely to remain undetected or unreported.

    Inmates and prison staff, who live in confined spaces and in close proximity with others, remain extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. While the rest of the country is instructed to respect social isolation and hygiene rules, basic measures like hand washing - let alone physical distancing - are just not possible for prisoners.

    Under international law, India has an obligation to ensure the physical and mental health and well-being of inmates. However, with an occupancy rate of over 117%, precarious hygienic conditions and inadequate health services, the overcrowded Indian prisons constitute the perfect environment for the spread of coronavirus. 

    In a bid to contain the spread of the disease among inmates and prison staff, the Supreme Court asked state governments on 23 March 2020 to take steps to decongest the country’s prison system by considering granting parole to those convicted or charged with offenses carrying jail terms of up to seven years.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also called on governments to “examine ways to release those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders.”

    Various state governments in India have now begun releasing detainees. However, there is a concern that hundreds of Kashmiri youth, journalists, political leaders, human right defenders and others arbitrarily arrested in the course of 2019, including following the repeal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on 5 August 2019, will not be among those benefiting from the measure. Article 370 provided special status to Jammu & Kashmir. 

    Human rights groups and UN experts have repeatedly called for the release as a matter of priority of “those detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.” 

    Last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that 7,357 persons had been arrested in Jammu & Kashmir since 5 August 2019. While the majority have since been released, hundreds are still detained under sections 107 and 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and the Public Security Act (PSA), a controversial law which allows the administrative detention of any individual for up to two years without charge or trial. Reportedly, many of those still detained are minors.

    Many of those detained were transferred to prisons all across India, thousands of kilometers away from their homes, hampering their lawyers’ and relatives’ ability to visit them. Some of the families, often too poor to afford to travel, have been left with nothing but concerns over the physical and psychological well-being of their loved ones.

    Mr. Miyan Abdul Qayoom, a human rights lawyer and President of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association, was also cut off from his family and lawyer. Detained since 4 August 2019 in India's Uttar Pradesh State, he was transferred to Tihar jail in New Delhi following a deterioration of his health. Mr. Qayoom, 70, suffers from diabetes, double vessel heart disease, and kidney problems. 

    Mr. Ghulam Mohammed Bhat was also transferred to a jail in Uttar Pradesh. In December 2019, he died thousands of kilometers away from his home at the age of 65 due to lack of medical care.

    With the entire country in a lockdown and a ban on prison visits for the duration of the outbreak imposed, inmates are more isolated from the outside world than ever. In such a situation, prison authorities must ensure that alternative means of communication, such as videoconferencing, phone calls and emails, are allowed. However, this has not often been the case. Especially in Jammu & Kashmir, where full internet services are yet to be restored after a communication blackout imposed on the population on 5 August 2019, contacts between inmates and the outside world are even more limited. 

    The isolation of inmates from the outside world is even more alarming in light of the huge number of deaths in custody, pointing towards the use of torture and ill-treatment in Indian prisons. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment against Kashmiri prisoners as part of a decades-long pattern of abuses have been repeatedly denounced by human rights groups and UN bodies.

    We remind Indian authorities that all measures designed to halt the spread of the virus must respect the fundamental human rights of every individual and we call on the Government to:

    • Immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including journalists, human rights defenders, political leaders and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views, including Mr. Miyan Abdul Qayoom and all those arrested after 5 August 2019 in Jammu & Kashmir;
    • Consider releasing those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, among them older detainees and those who are sick, as well as low-risk offenders;
    • Provide adequate healthcare and implement preventive measures, such as the screening of all detainees and the confinement of vulnerable inmates, to ensure the safety of all prisoners and prison staff;
    • Take measures to ensure that, upon release, inmates are medically screened and provided with adequate care and proper follow-up, including health monitoring; 
    • Ensure the availability to all prisoners of alternative measures to prison visits (e.g. video conferencing, more telephone access);
    • Ensure that safeguards against torture and ill-treatment of people in custody, including access to lawyers and medical examinations, are maintained during the emergency; and
    • Restore full access to high-speed internet in Jammu & Kashmir.

    We would like to stress that these are not issues circumscribed to the coronavirus emergency. No one must ever be tortured, ill-treated, or arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. All prisoners must be able to enjoy decent detention conditions, have access to health care, legal representation and the support of their families, even in normal times. 

    These are not new issues. The Government of India must urgently address them, regardless of the threat of a global pandemic. A truly healthy society is one where fundamental rights are enjoyed by all, in time of crisis and beyond.

    • Amnesty International India 
    • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    • Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP)
    • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
    • International Commissions of Jurists (ICJ)
    • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • India: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Khurram Parvez

    Khurram ParvezHuman rights defender Khurram Parvez, 44, is the Programme Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which is a coalition of various campaign, research and advocacy organisations based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir which monitor and investigate human right abuses. He is also the Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearance (AFAD) a collective of non-governmental organisations from ten Asian countries that campaign on the issue of enforced disappearances.

    Khurram has documented serious human rights violations in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, including enforced disappearances and unlawful killings. He was detained in November 2021 and is accused ofbeing in contact with individuals linked to a Pakistani militant group. He is facing multiple charges  under the Penal Code and draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA), related to conspiracy and terrorism, which CIVICUS believes have been trumped up by the authorities because of his activism.

    He has faced systematic harassment to advocate against human rights violations in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir. In September 2016, the Indian authorities arrested him a day after he was barred from travelling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He was charged under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years. He was released after 76 days in detention.

    In October 2020, nine simultaneous raids were conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the houses and offices of several human rights defenders, non-governmental organisations and newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir - including the house of Khurram Parvez.

    2021

    22 November 2021: Officials from the National Investigation Agency (NIA), assisted by the local police, conducted raids on the house of Khurram Parvez and the JKCCS office in the city of Srinagar, in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory, for approximately 14 hours. Parvez’s mobile phone, laptop, and several books were seized. On the evening of the same day, Khurram Parvez was taken for questioning to the premises of the NIA in Srinagar. At around 6pm, his family members received a phone call from NIA officers who requested them to bring him clothes. Upon arrival at the premises of the NIA they were given an arrest memo for Parvez, which was issued on the basis of a First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the NIA on 6 November 2021.

    According to the arrest memo, Khurram Parvez faces charges of “criminal conspiracy”, “waging war against the government of India”, “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India” (Sections 120B, 121, and 121A of the Indian Penal Code, respectively), and “raising funds for terror activities”, “punishment for conspiracy”, “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act”, “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation” and “offence of raising funds for terrorist organisations” (Sections 17, 18, 18B, 38, and 40 of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), respectively).

    24 November 2021: Khurram Parvez was taken to New Delhi where he remained detained under NIA’s custody.

    30 November 2021:Appeared at the NIA court.

    2 December 2021: United Nations human rights experts expressed concern over the arrest of Khurram Parvez under the stringent UAPA anti-terror law and called for his release. They said: “We are concerned that one month after Mr. Parvez’s arrest, he is still deprived of liberty in what appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations.”

    4 December 2021: Khurram Parvez appeared before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Special Court in New Delhi, after 12 days under NIA’s custody. Judge Parveen Singh extended his detention for another 20 days and ordered that he be transferred to the Tihar maximum security prison, in New Delhi.

    25 December 2021: Judicial custody extended for 30 days until 21 January 2022.

    2022

    24 January 2021:Judicial custody extended for 40 days. His family was barred from meeting him due to COVID-19.

    12 February 2022:The court extended his judicial custody for a further 40 days.

    24 March 2022: An NIA Court extended his judicial custody for 50 days.

    27 March 2022: The NIA carried out another raid of the residence of Khurram in Srinagar.

    13 May 2022: The NIA filed a charge sheet against Khurram Parvez and seven others before the NIA Special Court in New Delhi. He was charged under Sections 120B and 121A of the Indian Penal Code (“criminal conspiracy” and “punishment for conspiracy to wage war against the government of India”, respectively), Section 8 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (“taking gratification, in order, by corrupt or illegal means, to influence public servant”) and Sections 13, 18, 18B, 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) (“unlawful activities”, “conspiracy”, “recruiting any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act”, “offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation” and “giving support to a terrorist organisation”, respectively). 

    In the chargesheet the authorities accused him and others of supporting a Pakistan based proscribed militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) to fund and recruit operatives for providing support in planning and execution of terrorist activities in various parts of India including Jammu & Kashmir.


    India is rated 'Repressed' by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • India: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj

    SudhaSudha Bharadwaj, aged 60, is a human rights lawyer and activist who has spent her life defending Indigenous people in India and protecting workers’ rights. She was detained in August 2018, arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on trumped up accusations of having links with Maoist terrorist organisations, based on evidence believed to befabricated. It is alleged that she and 15 other human rights defenders conspired to incite Dalits at a public meeting which led to violence in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018. The treatment of Sudha highlights the increasingly repressive measures used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders.

     

  • India: Crackdown continues in Jammu & Kashmir

    Joint statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Our organizations express grave concern over the human rights situation in Jammu & Kashmir, where the authorities imposed severe restrictions after a decision to revoke constitutional autonomy on 5 August 2019, including one of the world’s longest internet shutdowns, which the Indian Supreme Court has said violates the right to freedom of expression.

    Hundreds were arbitrarily arrested, and there are some serious allegations of beatings and abusive treatment in custody, including alleged cases of torture. Three former chief ministers, other leading politicians, as well as separatist leaders and their alleged supporters, remain in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and other abusive laws, many without charge and in undisclosed locations outside of Jammu & Kashmir.  This violates fair trial safeguards of the criminal justice system and undermines accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights. Journalists and human rights defenders have been threatened for criticizing the clampdown. These violations, as those committed over the past decades, are met with chronic impunity. 

    We urge the government of India to ensure independent observers including all human rights defenders and foreign journalists are allowed proper access to carry out their work freely and without fear, release everyone detained without charge, and remove restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of movement, including where they have been denied the right to leave the country by being placed on the ‘Exit Control List’.

    We also call on the governments of India and Pakistan to grant unconditional access to OHCHR and other human rights mechanisms to Kashmir.

    We further urge the Council to establish an independent international investigation mechanism into past and ongoing crimes under international law and human rights violations by all parties in Kashmir, as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Amnesty International
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)
    International Service for Human Rights
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    This statement is also supported by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)


    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • India: Death of priest highlights persecution of human rights defenders under Modi government

    The death of Jesuit priest and human rights defender Father Stan Swamy, today, has deeply shocked and outraged global civil society alliance CIVICUS. Swamy’s death is a result of the persecution he has faced by the Modi government after revealing abuses by the state.

     

  • India: Democracy Dialogue Report: 26 August 2018

    Democracy Dialogue held by The Blue Ribbon Movement in Mumbai, India, 26 August 2018

     

  • India: Democracy threatened by growing attacks on civil society 

    According to the policy brief, published by CIVICUS in November 2017, although civil society in India has been playing essential roles ever since the country's struggle for independence, the space for civil society - civic space - is increasingly being contested.

     

  • India: End communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir without further delay

    India blockage statement

    Kathmandu/Bangkok/Paris/Geneva, 4 October 2019:

    Today completes two months of the unprecedented communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) urge the government of India to immediately restore internet and mobile phone connections in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. We are deeply concerned over the wide-ranging impact on the enjoyment of basic human rights caused by this continuous restriction on communications.

    Internet shutdowns, of which there have been dozens in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir since the beginning of the year, have significant consequences, negatively impacting the economy, education, access to health care and emergency services, press freedom, freedom of expression, and the right to engage in political decision making. This is particularly grave given the context, in which the government of India, on 5 August, 2019, revoked the autonomous status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the State into two Union Territories. With the suspension of communications, people have effectively been denied the right to make informed political opinions and to express themselves regarding these decisions.

    Although limited landline connections were reportedly restored across Jammu and Kashmir on 13 September 2019, access to those connections remains limited. No enforceable law in India permits such unprecedented and prolonged internet shutdown without any valid justification. Moreover, freedom of expression is protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party, and under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

    A petition filed before the Supreme Court of India noted that the communication shutdown had fueled “anxiety, panic, alarm, insecurity and fear among the residents of Kashmir” and created hurdles for journalists to report on the situation in the region. In a statement on 22 August 2019, five UN human rights experts expressed deep concern over the shutdown and called it “inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality.’

    There have also been reports of hundreds of detentions of political activists, human rights defenders, community leaders, and others, including children between 9 and 11 years of age, under the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) of 1978, which permits preventive detention without charge. The communication blockade has also impeded access to legal aid.

    FORUM-ASIA, CIVICUS, FIDH, and OMCT strongly believe that this prolonged restriction on communication, coupled with arbitrary mass detentions, denial of freedom of expression and access to information, is unnecessary and disproportionate to the situation and will further lead to a deterioration of human rights and basic freedoms. We urge the government of India to end the communications blockade immediately and to adopt remedial measures to undo the damage done so far in Jammu and Kashmir. We reiterate our call to the government of India to resort to peaceful democratic means and refrain from use of brute force.

    For more information, please contact:

    1. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, majumdar[AT]civicus.org
    2. South Asia Programme, FORUM-ASIA, sasia[AT]forum-asia.org
    3. FIDH, jrousselot[AT]fidh.org
    4. OMCT, nb[AT]omct.org, sa[AT]omct.org

     

  • India: Government must halt its harassment of human rights activist Harsh Mander

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent raid carried out on facilities associated with human rights defender Harsh Mander who serves as Director of the Centre for Equity Studies and calls on the government of India to stop targeting and intimidating human rights defenders. The raid adds to the long list of restrictions imposed on human rights defenders in the country. 

    On 16 September 2021, the Enforcement Directorate under the Ministry of Finance of India conducted the raid on Harsh Mander’s residence, the Centre for Equity Studies’ office, and a children’s home run by the organisation under the pretext of investigating money laundering allegations against him. The raid happened several hours after Harsh Mander departed to Germany to attend a fellowship programme.

    Harsh Mander is a prominent human rights defender and social activist who has been critical of the Narendra Modi government. He has raised concerns about how the government  handled the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing attacks on press freedom, and the discriminatory citizenship law passed in 2019 which human rights groups have called ‘unconstitutional and divisive’.

    Following the raid, more than 500 activists in India issued a joint statement in solidarity with Harsh Mander and condemned the intimidation tactics.

    “The authorities must halt its harassment of human rights activist Harsh Mander. These actions conducted by the Enforcement Directorate is a clear tactic to intimidate and criminalise the defender. It also creates a chilling effect on government critics and is a strategy to force many to self-censorship.”, said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Civic Space Researcher for the Asia Pacific.

    Similar raids were conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in October 2020 on two children’s homes associated with him based on accusations of financial irregularities and illicit activities.

    These raids highlight an ongoing pattern of baseless and politically-motivated criminal charges brought by the authorities against activists across India that has been documented by the CIVICUS Monitor.  This includes the use of a variety of restrictive laws - including national security and counter-terrorism legislation - to imprison human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and critics.  Some have been in pre-trial detention for years.

    “It is appalling that activists in India are facing harassment just for speaking up for human rights. The government must drop all charges against them and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained. It must also take steps to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals,” added Benedict.

    India’s rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in December 2019. 

     

  • India: Halt harassment and release human rights defender Teesta Setalvad

    Free Teesta Protests Gallo

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent arrest of Teesta Setalvad and calls on the government of India to stop targeting human rights defenders. The arrest is the latest attempt by the Modi government to criminalise activists and undermine civic space in the country.

     

  • India: Halt judicial harassment of rights groups over foreign funding

    CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, condemns the recent case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the Centre for Promotion of Social Concern (CPSC) and its programme unit called People's Watch on allegations of 'conspiracy' and 'illegal foreign funding withdrawal' under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976.

     

  • India: Hijab row the latest show of Hindu nationalism

    By Inés M. Pousadela, Senior Researcher at CIVICUS

    In an election season, India’s ruling party has again resorted to the right-wing populist playbook, stirring up divisions for political gain. This time it is the turn of Muslim women, caught in the crossfire of a backlash against both the rights of religious minorities and women’s rights. The controversy over the wearing of the hijab in schools is just the latest chapter in the saga starring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party in their quest to consolidate power. Their attempts will continue, as will civil society resistance and struggles for rights.

    Read on Inter Press News

     

  • India: Human rights body must raise concerns over crackdown

    To: Hon’ble Justice (Retd.) H.L. Dattu
    Chairperson
    National Human Rights Commission of India
    New Delhi Email:

    Re: Request to raise serious concerns over the ongoing crackdown on human rights defenders in India

    Dear Justice (Retd.) Dattu,

    We, the undersigned international and regional non-governmental organisations, are concerned by the ongoing crackdown by the State agencies on human rights defenders in India. It is in this context that we are writing to request you to raise these concerns and take the necessary measures within your mandate.

    On October 28 and 29, 2020, the houses and offices of several human rights defenders, human rights groups and journalists in Srinagar and Bandipora (Jammu and Kashmir), Bengaluru (Karnataka), and Delhi were raided by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials. These raids were said to be undertaken to investigate the use of funding for “carrying out secessionist and separatist activities” in Kashmir. The raided premises included the houses and offices of several well-known human rights defenders, including: Ms. Parveena Ahangar, Chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and 2017 laureate of the Rafto Prize; Mr. Khurram Parvez, Coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD); other JKCCS members; and the independent daily newspaper Greater Kashmir. The raids were also conducted in Bengaluru at the residence of Ms. Swati Sheshadri, and in Delhi at the residence of Mr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairperson of the NGO Charity Alliance and former Chairperson of the Delhi Minorities Commission. Documents and electronic devices, including hard disks containing sensitive information such as victims' personal data and testimonies, were seized during these raids. The individuals and groups affected by these actions have been at the forefront of the human rights movement in the country for decades, and these raids appear to be an attempt to silence them and to hamper their important human rights work. We are extremely concerned regarding the blatant misuse of the counterterrorism law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), against these defenders.

    On October 8, 2020, Mr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest and prominent Adivasi rights activist based in Ranchi (Jharkhand), was arrested without any warrant by NIA officials from his residence. On October 9, 2020, he was transported to Mumbai (Maharashtra), where he was remanded in Taloja jail. His age and the fact that he is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease is putting him at an increased vulnerability of contracting COVID-19. Mr. Swamy was arrested for his alleged involvement in the “Bhima Koregaon case”, in connection with caste-based violence that broke out during the Elgar Parishad at Bhima Koregaon (Maharashtra), on January 1, 2018.

    As many as 15 other prominent human rights defenders across the country, known for their human rights and civil liberties work on behalf of the most marginalized communities in India, have been detained in the Bhima Koregaon case under the UAPA. Some of them have been detained since June 2018. The 15 are: Mr. Varavara Rao, Ms. Sudha Bharadwaj, Mr. Vernon Gonsalves, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Mr. Arun Ferreira, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Mr. Rona Wilson, Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Anand Teltumbde, Mr. Mahesh Raut,

    Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Hany Babu, Mr. Sagar Gorkhe, Mr. Ramesh Gaichor, and Ms. Jyoti Jagtap. Their bail applications have systematically been rejected.

    Since December 2019, the police have also arrested human rights defenders who peacefully protested against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and filed charges of sedition, murder, and terrorism. Those arrested and currently imprisoned include Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Umar Khalid, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Mr. Meeran Haider, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Ms. Ishrat Jehan, Mr. Khalid Saifi, and Mr. Akhil Gogoi. Charges also remain pending against anti-CAA activists, Ms. Safoora Zargar and Dr. Kafeel Khan, who were granted bail recently. We also remain concerned over pending legal proceedings against anti-CAA activists in Uttar Pradesh and several prominent human rights defenders in Delhi who have been repeatedly questioned.

    As human rights defenders in India are being targeted for their legitimate human rights activities, our organisations urge the National Human Rights Commission of India to intervene immediately.

    We respectfully call upon the National Human Rights Commission of India to carry out independent and impartial investigations into the above-mentioned cases through the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, in conformity with its mandate to protect human rights, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

    Most of these human rights defenders remain detained, some of them in serious health conditions. We therefore urge the National Human Rights Commission of India to intervene with the concerned courts and the Government of India and demand their immediate release.

    We also call upon the National Human Rights Commission of India to undertake trial observations in the above-mentioned cases.

    We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

    Respectfully,

    Signatories:
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    FIDH, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    Front Line Defenders
    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    Minority Rights Group (MRG)
    South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Cc
    Mr. C. S. Mawri
    Assistant Registrar and Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders
    National Human Rights Commission of India
    New Delhi Email:

    Cc
    Ms. Katharina Rose
    Geneva Representative
    Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) Email:

    Mr. Kieren Fitzpatrick
    Director
    Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Email:

     

  • India: Human rights defender Khurram Parvez marks 150 days arbitrarily detained on baseless charges

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Amnesty International condemn the way in which the authorities have targeted and harassed human rights defender Khurram Parvez through the misuse of the justice system, 150 days on, from his arbitrary detention. Our organisations call on the government of India to immediately and unconditionally release him and drop the baseless charges that have been brought against him.

     

  • India: Human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj spends another birthday in detention

    Human rights defender and lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj will be spending her 60th birthday in detention today, more than three years after she was arrested on baseless charges under a draconian anti-terror law. Global civil society alliance CIVICUS calls on the Indian government to halt the ongoing persecution against her and release Bharadwaj immediately and unconditionally. 

    Bharadwaj has been in pre-trial detention since August 2018, when she was arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with Maoist terrorist organisations. She and 15 other human rights defenders were further accused of conspiring to incite members of the marginalised Dalit community in relation to violence which erupted in Bhima Koregaon village in the Pune district of Maharashtra in January 2018.  

    Bharadwaj was initially held under house arrest until October 2018, when she was moved to Byculla Women’s Prison in Mumbai. This is her fourth birthday in prison. 

    “Instead of celebrating her birthday with family and friends, Sudha will be alone in Byculla prison because she chose to speak up for the rights of Indigenous people and workers. Her detention highlights the systematic misuse of security laws by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to clamp down on dissent and silence human rights defenders”, said Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific researcher. 

    Her multiple pleas for bail including for underlying health issues have been opposed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), despite calls by the UN to decongest prisons and release political prisoners during the pandemic. There are  serious concerns about the validity of evidence against her. A report in March 2021 by a U.S. digital forensics firm has raised questions about incriminating letters presented as evidence to implicate Bharadwaj and the other activists. The letters were found on an activist’s laptop which is thought to have been hacked. 

    UN experts have expressed concerns about the terrorism charges laid against Bharadwaj and about the UAPA in general, particularly with regards to its vague definition of ‘unlawful activities’ and ‘membership of terrorist organisations’ which have been routinely used by the government to stifle dissent. 

    “The Indian government must stop using restrictive national security and counter-terrorism laws against human rights defenders and dissenters. The laws are incompatible with India’s international human rights obligations and become tools for judicial harassment” added Benedict 

    Sudha Bharadwaj is one of a group of leading human rights defenders who feature in CIVICUS’ global campaign #StandAsMyWitness. The campaign urges people to call for an end to the imprisonment and harassment of human rights defenders across the world. CIVICUS encourages people to share the defenders’ individual stories on social media using the hashtag #StandAsMyWitness. 

    India’s rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’ in December 2019.  

     

  • India: Joint statement on the deteriorating health of G. N. Saibaba in Nagpur Central Jail

    Seven human rights organisations expressed concerns about the deteriorating health of the activist and Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba in Nagpur Central Jail, Maharashtra State, and called on the Indian authorities to provide urgent access to health care.

     

  • India: Ongoing targeting of activists under anti-terror laws for their protests against citizenship law

    India jail

    We, the undersigned civil society organizations, are deeply concerned about the ongoing harassment of 18 human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in reprisal for their advocacy work against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) 2019. Thirteen of those arrested under the UAPA are currently in Rohini, Tihar, and Mandoli jails, New Delhi. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all the human rights defenders arrested, and the dismissal of all charges against them.

     

  • India: Release human rights defender Khurram Parvez & stop harassment of activists in Jammu & Kashmir

    Stand with Khurram TW

    Ahead of his upcoming hearing on 21 January 2022, CIVICUS, a global civil society alliance, calls on the government of India to immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Khurram Parvez. The judicial harassment he is facing highlights the repressive environment for activists and critics in Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir.