Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Narwal’

Anti-terror laws in India keep being used against human rights defenders

January 28, 2022

On 26 January 2022 four major NGOs made a strong joint statement on India:

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.

The CAA has been widely criticized by activists, human rights defenders, civil society organizations, students and the international community for being openly sectarian and discriminatory against Muslims. After the CAA’s adoption, protesters across the country took the street to voice their concerns against the legislation, which goes against India’s Constitutional principles of secularism and equality. Police authorities responded by arresting human rights defenders and activists who spoke up against the CAA. Most of them were student activists and human rights defenders from the minority Muslim community.

The arrests of human rights defenders began in February 2020 and are still ongoing. Many of them had multiple First Information Reports (FIR) registered against them and were charged with serious offenses, including under UAPA. Of those arrested, only five human rights defenders – Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Safoora Zargar, Asif Iqbal Tanha, and Md. Faizan Khan – were released on bail. Thirteen others – Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Khalid Saifi, Tahir Hussain, Saleem Malik, Mohd. Saleem Khan, Meeran Haider, Shadab Ahmed, Tasleem Ahmed, Shifa Ur Rehman, Athar Khan, and women human rights defenders Ishrat Jahan and Gulfisha Fatima– remain in jail. Despite prolonged incarceration, the trial for their case has not commenced yet.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/01/eu-human-rights-committee-condemns-indias-arrest-of-human-rights-defenders/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/06/27/un-experts-address-3-big-ones-usa-china-and-india/

On 24 January 2022, a Delhi court framed charges against human rights defender Sharjeel Imam while rejecting his application for bail. The charges include Sections 124A (“sedition”), 153A (“promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153B (“imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration”), 505 (“statements conducing to public mischief”), along with Section 13 (“punishment for unlawful activities”) of the UAPA.

Khalid Saifi, Ishrat Jahan, and Gulfisha Fatima have reported custodial violence and torture by the Delhi police. There has been no effective investigations into these allegations or responsibility taken for their treatment. Shifa Ur Rehman, who has been in detention since 26 April 2020, suffers from severe kidney disease and has been denied access to adequate medical care in prison.

We express our deep concern over the harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders that appear to be in retaliation to their peaceful activism and the legitimate expression of dissent against a discriminatory law. Despite the risks, human rights defenders have raised their voice for those oppressed by the CAA and in support of the Constitutional values that represent India.

We call on the Indian authorities to protect those defending human rights values and principles enshrined in national laws and to uphold international human rights commitments. We stand in solidarity with those who cannot speak out due to their incarceration, threats by Indian authorities, or due to a prevailing sense of fear. The treatment of these human rights defenders highlights a pattern of perpetrated abuse and violence, which is also exerted through legal mechanisms. This is especially concerning given India’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council and its pledge to preserve and protect human rights.

We urge the relevant authorities in India to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arrested for protesting against the CAA, dismiss all charges, and cease all forms of harassment against them.
2. Guarantee under all circumstances that the arrested human rights defenders are not subjected to any form of torture and other ill-treatment while in police custody, and guarantee their access to adequate medical care and treatment.
3. Initiate a thorough judicial review of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in genuine consultation with independent civil society organizations and human rights defenders, with a view to aligning these laws with India’s obligations under international human rights law.
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions—including police and judicial harassment.

Please inform us of any actions that may be taken with regard to the above case.

-FIDH
· Civicus:
· Front Line Defenders
· World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/india/india-ongoing-targeting-of-18-human-rights-defenders-under-anti

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