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India
12.10.06
Urgent Interventions

India: Release of Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei and Mr. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei

New information
IND 001 / 0906 / OBS 106.1
Release
India
October 12, 2006

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information in the following situation in India.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the release of Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei (alias Thabi) and Mr. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei, two indigenous human rights defenders in Manipur, north-eastern India.

According to the information received, on October 4, 2006, a Court in Manipur ordered the release of Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei, the Publicity Secretary of the Threatened Indigenous Peoples’ Society (TIPS) of Manipur, and a spokesperson for Apunda Lup, a Manipur-based coalition of 34 human rights organisations, and Mr. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei, a human rights lawyer and TIPS Secretary General. All charges against them were dropped.

Both TIPS members had been detained for six weeks in Manipur (See background information). Their detention might have been linked with the demonstration organised on August 23, 2006 by Apunba Lup, to protest against a bomb attack that occurred on August 16, 2006, which killed five Hindus and injured over 40 as they prayed in the temple of Krishna, in Manipur. Indeed, Mr. Langamba’s family claims that after his arrest, police frequently rang up their house, asking about his whereabouts on August 16, 2006.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei and Mr. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei, and thanks all the persons, organisations and institutions, which intervened in favour of their release.

Background information:

On August 23, 2006, Mr. Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei was arrested at his home by members of the Manipur police and officers from the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary unit stationed in Manipur. The police produced a memo relating to section 41 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows police to arrest a person without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant. After the police searched his home, Mr. Langamba was taken to the Imphal Police Station (IPS), Imphal West District, and then allegedly accused of involvement in a vehicle-burning episode at Kamuchingjil and of snatching official files from government offices.

On August 24, 2006, Mr. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei was arrested at his residence in Porompat Thawanthaba Leikai at around 4 am, by the same team of Manipur policemen and officers from the Assam Rifles. The officers did not produce an arrest warrant, although they seized fifteen TIPS CDs, three books from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), among others, and later confiscated his wife’s mobile phone. However, when she and his brother went to the Imphal City Police Station to visit him, police showed them a warrant for his arrest.

After their arrest, both men were detained at the IPS, where they were interrogated and reportedly tortured by the police. They were also denied the right to meet their lawyer. They were both charged under Sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (1967), which relates with being a member of and providing support for a terrorist organisation. In particular, both men are accused of maintaining links with the illegal underground group called the “Organisation to Save the Revolutionary Movement in Manipur” (Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup - KYKL).

On August 29, 2006 and September 1, 2006 respectively, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) ordered Messrs. Umakanta and Langamba’s release on bail, for lack of evidence. However, they both refused to pay the bail on the basis that the charges against them were false, insisting on their unconditional release. They were subsequently remanded to judicial custody for an additional 15 days in Sajiwa Central Jail.

The CJM found that both men were tortured by police in custody. In Mr. Langamba’s case, the CJM ordered the prison authorities to get him examined by a medical doctor approved by the Manipuri government’s Health Department. As for Mr. Umakanta, who developed health complications including heart pain and periodic memory lapses following his custody at the IPS, a police officer was designed to be in charge of submitting a statement to the Court regarding these allegations of torture.

Action requested:

Please write to the Indian authorities and ask them to :
i. take all necessary measures to guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Leitanthem Umakanta Meitei and Yengkokpam Langamba Meitei;
ii. order that an independent and impartial enquiry be conducted immediately to investigate into the allegations of torture to which the two men would have been subjected whilst in police custody, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to justice and pronounce sentences proportional to the gravity of their crimes;
iii. end all forms of harassment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in India, and guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations are able to carry out their work without any hindrance;
iv. 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”, 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”;
v. 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.

Addresses:

  • 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 Mr. Y.K. Sabharwal, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, 1 Tilak Marg, New Delhi, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

  • Justice A.S. Anand, 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: chairnhrc@nic.in

  • Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur, Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Babupara, Imphal, Manipur, Fax: +91 385 222 1817, Email: cmmani@hub.nic.in

  • Justice W. A. Shishak, Chairperson, Manipur State Human Rights Commission, Courts Complex Lamphelpat, Imphal, Manipur, India, Fax: +91 385 410472.

  • H.E. Mr. Swashpawan Singh, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9 (6ème étage), 1202 Geneva, Tel: +41 22 906 86 86, Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

  • Mr. Dipak Chatterjee, Ambassador, Embassy of India to the European Union, 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, October 12, 2006

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
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