Writing to the Indian government, four UN human rights experts have expressed alarm about allegations of at least 59 extra-judicial killings by police in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017.
In a press release issued last Friday, the members expressed concern over the pattern of events. The members said, individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture.
The press statement comes at a crucial time as the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider several such cases on January 14. In all the cases, the police said the killings took place during encounters and in self-defence. Most the cases which the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has raised with the Indian government pertain to Muslim victims.
The statement expressed concern that the Supreme Court’s guidelines on investigations were not followed. This includes the police failing to inform family members of the killings, to conduct examinations of the scene, to provide copies of post-mortem reports to families, and to transfer cases to an independent investigative agency.
They UN experts also expressed concern about reports that family members of victims and human rights defenders working on the cases had been harassed, subjected to death threats from the police and had false criminal cases brought against them in apparent attempts to intimidate them.The experts also mentioned complaints on allegations of corruption, including the police demanding money to release the victim prior to the killing.
They statement called for an urgent review of the use of force by the UP police to ensure all law enforcement operations were conducted in compliance with international standards, for prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of potentially unlawful killings and for perpetrators to be prosecuted. "Family members of victims and human rights defenders must also be protected from reprisals, and threats and harassment against them investigated," the experts said.
The OHCHR officials said the Indian government had not yet replied to their letter and that they continue to receive more information on these killings.
Six months ago, the OHCHR had written to the Indian government on the issue of alleged fake encounter deaths in Manipur and the government’s failure to complete inquiries within the Supreme Court’s deadlines. “We are extremely concerned that the delay appears to be deliberate, undue and unreasonable, and we condemn this lack of progress,” they said.
A volatile situation prevails in UP, as ‘encounter’ attacks being unleashed on people in the name of fighting crimes emerging as one of the most chilling aspects of the ‘Yogi Raj’ (Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath rule) in the state. The police have conducted – according to the state government’s figures till January this year – 1,038 ‘encounters’, killing a total of 44 people and leaving 238 injured.
The panel of experts of the UN included Agnes Callamard, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; Ahmed Shaheed. It is important to note that these experts hail from the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.