India: Opening of judicial proceedings against several members of CCC and of ICN
IND 003 / 1107 / OBS 137
Harassment / Judicial proceedings
November 6, 2007
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the opening of judicial proceedings against Ms. Ineke Zeldenrust, Ms. Esther de Haan, Ms. Christa de Bruin, members of the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an organisation which struggles for the improvement of working conditions in garment industries, Mr. Evert de Boer, CCC Chair, as well as against Mr. Gerard Oonk, Mr. Hans Maas and Ms. Pauline Overeemand, members of the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), an NGO raising awareness on the negative impacts of globalisation policies on human rights in India.
According to the information received, on September 26, 2007, the Indian VII Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Bangalore decided to issue arrest warrants against seven Netherlands-based human rights defenders from CCC and ICN, at the request of the company Fibres and Fabrics International (FFI) and its subsidiary company Jeans Knit Pvt Ltd (JKPL). FFI and JKPL are two subcontractors of big brands such as G-Star, Armani, RaRe, Guess, Gap and Mexx, which are accused of physical and verbal abuse on employees, forced labour, unpaid overtime working hours, non-deliverance of contracts, confiscation of identity cards, etc. The seven defenders are accused of “cybernetic crimes”, “racist and xenophobe acts” and “criminal defamation” under Articles 499 and 500 of the Indian Criminal Procedure Code and under Articles 2 to 6 of the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybernetic Crime. As a consequence, they could be arrested and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment if caught on the Indian soil.
It has further been reported that since 2005, several local trade unions, including the Garment and Textile Workers’ Union (GATWU), the New Trade Union of India (NTUI), the Civil Initiative for Development and Peace (CIVIDEP), the Textile Industry Workers’ Front (Munnade) and the CCC task-force of Tamil Nadu, which had reported in late 2005 violations of labour rights in FFI/JKPL facilities, including high workload, forced overwork, non-payment of overtime, physical and psychological abuse, have been sued by FFI for “defamation”. Following a court order issued by the Court of the IV Additional City Civil Judge in Bangalore on July 28, 2006, and prolonged on February 19, 2007, they have been denied the right to disclose information on the working conditions of FFI and JKPL workers. The case has not yet been tried on content, only a ‘prima facie case’ was stated. The order will be challenged before the High Court of Justice by the affected organisations. Yet, as of issuing this urgent appeal, no date had been set as regards the next hearing on that matter.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern with these events, which reflect the alarming human rights situation in India, in terms of both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, in a context where the judiciary seems to favour policies favourable to transnational corporations at the expense of human rights.
The Observatory recalls that India was elected as a member of the Human Rights Council in 2007 for three years, and has committed, in this regard, to “uphold the highest standards of promotion and protection of human rights”. On the occasion of its election in June 2007, India had further committed to “strive for the full realisation of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights”. To that end, the Observatory strongly urges all the Indian authorities to conform with international human rights and corporate social responsibility standards when issuing judgements involving working conditions in transnational corporations or other companies.
Please write to the Indian authorities and ask them to:
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned CCC and ICN members, as well as all human rights defenders in India;
- Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the above-mentioned CCC and ICN members as well as against all human rights defenders in India;
- Comply with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, Article 6(b) (“everyone has the right, individually and in association with others [...] freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms”), as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
- Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by India.
- Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857
- Shri Shivraj Patil, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979.
- Justice K. G. Balkrishnan, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Justice Rajendra Babu, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, Tel: +91 11 230 74448, Fax: +91 11 2334 0016, Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Mr. Swashpawan Singh, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Tel: +41 22 906 86 86, Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Dipak Chatterjee, Ambassador, Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)2 6489638 or +32 (0)2 6451869
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of India in your respective countries.
Geneva - Paris, November 6, 2007
Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.
The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax: FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 33 (0) 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT : + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 (0) 22 809 49 29
Email : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
 See the report made by the CCC in this regard, at http://www.cleanclothes.org/ftp/06-08-Fact_Finding_Report.
 See OP9 of General Assembly resolution A/RES/60/251.
 See http://www.un.org/ga/60/elect/hrc/india.pdf.