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India
25.03.21
Urgent Interventions

India: Ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Stan Swamy

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
IND 006 / 1020 / OBS 113.2
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
India
March 25, 2021


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.


New Information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest and prominent Adivasi (indigenous) rights activist in Jharkhand State.[1]

On March 22, 2021, the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Mumbai rejected Mr. Swamy’s bail petition, arguing that there was sufficient evidence to prove his involvement in “deep-rooted conspiracy”. His application for bail had been pending since November 2020.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Swamy has been arbitrarily detained in Taloja jail since October 9, 2020, following his arbitrary arrest on October 8, 2020 by NIA officials for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon case. The case relates to caste-based violence that broke out on January 1, 2018, during Elgar Parishad, a Dalit commemoration of the anniversary of a battle the Dalits won 200 years ago against the Peshwas (upper caste rulers), at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra State.

On November 26, 2020, the NIA Court in Mumbai rejected Mr. Stan Swamy’s request for a straw, a sipper bottle, and winter clothes, which had been allegedly confiscated by the NIA at the time of his arrest. Mr. Swamy had lodged his request on November 6, 2020, as he is unable to hold a glass due to having an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, Mr. Swamy suffers from a hearing impairment, has fallen in the jail on multiple occasions, and suffers from severe pain in his lower abdomen as a result of two surgeries. On November 29, 2020, the Taloja jail authorities provided Mr. Swamy with a sipper bottle, following widespread outcry over the refusal to provide him with adequate medical care.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the health condition of Mr. Stan Swamy, which is likely to deteriorate in the overcrowded Taloja jail as a result of not receiving adequate care. His age and the fact that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease are putting him at an increased vulnerability of contracting COVID-19.

The Observatory further expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Stan Swamy, which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory calls upon the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Stan Swamy, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all other human rights defenders detained in the same case, including Ms. Sudha Bhardwaj; Mr. Vernon Gonsalves; Mr. Gautam Navlakha; Mr. Arun Ferreira; Mr. Sudhir Dhawale; Mr. Rona Wilson; Ms. Shoma Sen; Mr. Anand Teltumbde; Mr. Mahesh Raut; Mr. Surendra Gadling; Mr. Hany Babu; Mr. Ramesh Gaichour; Mr. Sagar Gorkhe; and Ms. Jyoti Jagtap. Mr. Varavara Rao was granted bail in February 2021 after more than two years of arbitrary detention.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Stan Swamy, and give him immediate and unconditional access to the medical attention he requires;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Stan Swamy and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in India, since their detention is arbitrary and seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

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

Addresses:

  • Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, Twitter: @narendramodi
  • Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
  • Mr. Sharad Arvind Bobde, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
  • Mr. P.C. Pant, Member of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: member1.nhrc@nic.in, Twitter: @India_NHRC, Twitter: @India_NHRC
  • Mr. C. S. Mawri, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
  • H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

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

***

Geneva-Paris, March 25, 2021

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

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

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@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” in Ranchi, Jharkhand, with which he has worked against illegal land acquisitions and forced displacement of Adivasi communities, as well as discrimination and human rights violations against them.

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