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Address Reprisals Against Activists in India: International Human Rights Groups to EU

The groups named Fr. Stan Swamy, Teesta Setalvad and Khurram Parvez, in a joint statement urging EU to look into how activists are being targeted in India
human rights

Five international human rights groups have issued a joint statement urging the European Union to address reprisals against human rights defenders and systematic attacks on civil society actors in India.

The groups are:

  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

  • CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

  • Front Line Defenders  

  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defender

The groups referred to the 10th EU-India human rights dialogue which took place on July 15, 2022, in New Delhi, and said that it failed to “adequately address pressing issues of security and reprisals faced by human rights defenders in India.”

The groups said, “While both parties reiterated their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights in the joint EU-India press release, there was no mention of any concrete action to be taken to ensure the ending of reprisals and persecution against human rights defenders, the release of jailed defenders and to prevent the adoption and abuse of restrictive laws, including anti-terror laws.”

Referring to specific cases, they said, “Of the 16 defenders arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregaon case, 13 remain in jail. On 5 July 2021, 84-year-old Stan Swamy died in custody due to the lack of medical treatment. There has been no public acknowledgment of the State’s complicity in his incarceration and death.”

It further said, “In November 2021, Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested and remains incarcerated on spurious charges.”

Referring to the shocking arrest of journalist, educationist and activist, Teesta Setalvad, the group said, “In June 2022, Teesta Setalvad was jailed as a direct reprisal for her campaign for accountability and justice for victims of the 2002 Gujarat riot.”

They also acknowledged, “Many other defenders, including indigenous women seeking justice, are jailed and labelled as terrorists due to their human rights work,” and said, “The joint EU-India press release fails to address any of these cases, or to acknowledge the general worsening of the human rights situation in India.”

Demanding actual action, the groups said, “Vague commitments on human rights and safeguarding freedoms and defenders no longer suffice. The scale of the violence and punishment for peaceful defense of human rights in India requires a proportionate and public response and a demand for accountability for continued violations. In the face of the blatant disregard for national standards and international commitments, particularly important in light of India’s global presence and membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the EU must take a public stand on patterns of reprisals and individual cases.”

While they acknowledged the need to continue dialogue, they warned against glossing over India;s human rights record. “We acknowledge the EU-India human rights dialogue as an opportunity for both parties to speak on important issues of human rights. However, recognition of the work of human rights defenders and of marginalized communities in the country will be visible based on tangible outcomes, including public statements that reflect clear human rights benchmarks. Failure to do so is a missed opportunity and may serve to further embolden India to violate human rights with impunity,” they said.

Calling on the EU and member states “to ensure that there is strong follow up to the dialogue and a commitment to hold India accountable,” they also asked that the “targeting of defenders through the use of national institutions, including arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, must be strongly condemned and individual cases should be publicly raised.”

The groups said, “The EU must also support human rights defenders by observing trials and undertaking visits to defenders in prisons. Effective protection for human rights defenders requires adhering to concrete human rights standards and taking action beyond the annual human rights dialogue between parties.”

The entire statement may be read here: 

Courtesy: sabrang india

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