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India
22.10.20
Urgent Interventions

Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Stan Swamy

URGENT APPEAL - THEOBSERVATORY

IND 006 / 1020 / OBS 113

Arbitrarydetention /
Judicial harassment

India

October 22, 2020


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in India.


Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about thearbitrary detention of Mr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuitpriest and prominent Adivasi rights activist in Jharkhand State[1].



According to the informationreceived, on October 8, 2020, around 8pm, Mr. Stan Swamy was arrested without anywarrant byofficials of theNational Investigation Agency (NIA) at his residence in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Hewas then brought to Ranchi NIA office, before being transported on October 9,2020 to Mumbai, Maharashtra State, where he wasremanded in Taloja jail.

Mr. Stan Swamy was arrested for his alleged involvement in the “BhimaKoregaon case” (see background information), in connection with caste-basedviolence that broke out during Elgar Parishad, a Dalit commemoration of the anniversary of a battle theDalits won 200 years ago against the Peshwas (upper caste rulers), at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra State, on January 1,2018.

Over the past months, Mr. Stan Swamy hadalready been interrogated by the NIA for over a total of 15 hours on July 27,28, 29, 30 and on August 6, 2020, at his residence in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Aftergetting no more information for about six weeks, Mr. Swamy wassuddenly summonedon October 6, 2020, to appear in the NIA office in Mumbai, to which he repliedthat he failed to see the need to further interrogate him given that he hadalready been interrogated for 15 hours and that he was not in a position to undertakethe 1,700 km long journey to Mumbai given his age and the fact that he issuffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease, therefore putting him at anincreased vulnerability of contracting COVID-19. However, he told the NIAofficials that he was willing to be interrogated through videoconferencing.

TheObservatory expresses its deepest concern about the arbitrary detentionand judicial harassment of Mr. Stan Swamy, whichseem to be only aimed at punishing and intimidating him for his legitimatehuman rights activities. The Observatory is also extremely concerned by thehealth of Mr. Stan Swamy inthe overcrowded Taloja jail.

TheObservatory urges the authorities of India to immediately andunconditionally release Mr. Stan Swamy and to putan end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against himand all other human rights defenders in the country.

Background information:

The Observatory recalls that 15 other prominent human rights defenders across thecountry, known for their human rights work on behalf of themost marginalized communities in India, have been detained in the Bhima Koregaon case under the draconianUnlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Some of them have been detained since June 2018. The 15 are: Mr. VaravaraRao[2],Ms. Sudha Bhardwaj, Mr. VernonGonsalves, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Mr. Arun Ferreira,Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Mr. Rona Wilson,Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Anand Teltumbde, Mr. MaheshRaut, Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Hany Babu, Mr. SagarGhogare, Mr. Ramesh Gaichor, and Ms. Jyoti Jagtap. Their bail applications have systematically been rejected. Moreover, just after an opposition-led government took officein Maharashtra State in 2019, the cases were transferred to the jurisdictionunder the NIA, which comes under the Union Government, in January 2020.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity andpsychological well-being of Mr. StanSwamy, and give him immediateand unconditional access to the medical attention he requires, aswell as all above-mentioned human rights defenders;

ii. Immediately andunconditionally release Mr. StanSwamy and all other human rights defendersarbitrarily detained in India, since their detention is arbitraryas it seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rightsactivities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judiciallevel - against Mr. Stan Swamy and all other human rights defenders in India, and ensure that they areable to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear ofreprisals in all circumstances;

iv. Conform tothe provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted onDecember 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular itsArticles 1 and 12.2.;

v. Ensure inall circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India,E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, Twitter: @narendramodi

· Mr. Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India,Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in

· Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India,Email: hshso@nic.in

· Mr. SharadArvind Bobde, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Mr. H.L.Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India,Email: chairnhrc@nic.in, Twitter: @India_NHRC

· Mr. C. S. Mawri, Focal Point on HumanRights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· H.E.Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India tothe United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email:mission.india@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India locatedin your country.

***

Geneva-Paris, October 22, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedysituations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are bothmembers of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call theemergency line:

· E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh-omct.org

· Tel OMCT+41 (0) 22 809 49 39

· Tel FIDH +33 1 43 55 25 18




[1] Fifteen years ago, Mr.Stan Swamy founded the Jesuit social research and training centre “Bagaicha” inRanchi, Jharkhand, with which he has tirelessly worked against illegal landacquisitions and forced displacement of Adivasi communities, as well as discriminationand human rights violations against them.

[2] See Observatory UrgentAppeal IND 005 / 0720 / OBS 079, published onJuly 16, 2020.

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