EU human rights committee condemns India’s arrest of human rights defenders

June 1, 2020

Maria Arena is the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament member of Socialist and Democrats parliamentary group. Photo: Reporter

20 May 2020 the chairperson of the Subcommittee of Human Rights of the European Parliament sent a letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, condemning the arrest of human rights defenders under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

In her letter, Maria Arena said the European body has been closely following the arrests of human rights defenders Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency in India.

Academic and Dalit author Teltumbde and human rights defender Navlakha had surrendered to the police last month after exhausting their possible legal remedies.

Nine other defenders have been in jail since 2018 in the Bhima Koregaon case, where the charges relate to caste violence around an Ambedkarite event and an alleged Maoist plot to foment armed revolution and possibly assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2018, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had issued a statement against terror charges being invoked against the activists.

It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalised communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment,” Arena said in her letter.

Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/07/india-attacks-on-human-rights-defenders-abound-under-unlawful-activities-prevention-act/]

This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies. India, she said, should do much more to ensure a safe and conducive environment for civil society working in the country and consider enacting a law on the protection and promotion of human rights defenders.

In a similar vein, ProtectDefenders on May 26 2020 reports “Increasing attacks against human rights defenders in India and Guatemala”. …..

Over the past month, ProtectDefenders.eu has received a considerable and growing number of reports regarding attacks, threats, and alerts affecting human rights defenders in India. This information alerts to the numerous acts of police and judicial harassment in the repression of legitimate activities in favor of human rights. Among other incidents, police harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders were reported in Manipur State, in relation to statements made to criticise the management of the current COVID-19 pandemic by local authorities.

Safoora Zargar, a 27-years old student and woman human rights defender unjustly detained since 10 April, is one of the OMCT’s campaign #FacesOfHope

For the OMCT campaign see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/25/faces-of-hope-campaign-human-rights-defenders-imprisoned-worldwide/

Moreover, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah terming the detentions of several Indian human rights activists ‘arbitrary’. It says the activists have been arrested for “their participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA)” in the last few months.

The letter highlights the cases of Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal, student activists who have been associated with the anti-CAA protests in Delhi and were arrested recently by the Delhi police.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/290529-eu-human-rights-subcommittee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-activists

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/europe-flags-rights-concern/cid/1777254

https://thewire.in/rights/ifhr-anti-caa-activists-arrests-release

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