IND 004 / 1114 / OBS 091.1
Arbitrary arrest /
Judicial harassment / Torture
December 24, 2014
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointprogramme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgentintervention in the following situation in India.
The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar SurakshaMancha (MASUM) about the ongoing and systematic attempts to criminalise MASUMand the lack of investigation into the aggression suffered by Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar when he was arrestedand while in police custody in November 2014 (see background information). Mr.Sarkar, a District Human RightsMonitor for MASUM in Murshidabad district (West Bengal, India) is a renownedhuman rights defender who has investigated cases on human rights violationsperpetrated by the police and Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel, and who hasbeen instrumental in denouncing several other human rights violations inMurshidabad district.
Accordingto the information received, following Mr. Sarkar’s arrest on November 23, 2014 under section 12 of the Passport Act of 1967, his son filed acomplaint to the local Police Superintendent urging the police to carry out aninvestigation into beatings his father has subjected to while in police custody(see background information). However,no enquiry or investigation has been carried out to this date. The Observatoryexpresses its concern for this lack of due process and calls for an immediateand impartial investigation.
Mr. Sarkar was admitted to Behrampore General Hospitalon November 27, 2014 formedical treatment following the injuries suffered in custody, and on November28, 2014, he was taken to Kolkata for advanced medical treatment. On November29, 2014, he underwent Psychiatric counselling; the medical report states thathe had several injuries such as a suspected fractured rib, as well as post traumaticstress, a feeling of humiliation, intense anxiety, fear and a feeling ofsadness and helplessness. He is suffering from insomnia and his doctors haveexpressed concern that this attack might have long-term effects on hispsychological health. Mr. Sarkar went to Calcutta Medical College and Hospitalfor further treatment on December 3, 2014, where he has since been undergoingseveral tests and physiotherapy sessions including using an LS belt.
Accordingto the same information received by the Observatory, there are ongoing andsystematic attempts by the Indian authorities to criminalise human rightsdefenders and MASUM activists (see background information). Amidst variouscases brought against members of MASUM, a new case has been filed against Mr.Sarkar and Mr. Najrul Islam, volunteer member ofMASUM, as accused persons in a non-bailable penal action. This case waspresented following the recent organization by MASUM of a monthly medical campfor victims of torture at Domkal on October 28. According to this information,the police and BSF were involved in attempts to cancel the medical camp, and aweek after the camp had taken place, a complaint was filed at the Domkal policestation against MASUM and the criminal case no. 1243 / 2014 (GR 5151 / 2014)was opened. These ongoing acts of harassment seem aimed at sending a warning to thelocal population that advocating for human rights will be punished by thepolice. Since this incident, Mr. Sarkar has expressed feelings of beingsocially rejected since the local villagers are afraid to stand beside him or support himdue to this police harassment.
The Observatory is further concerned for his physical and psychologicalintegrity, in particular in light of the injuries he sustains. The Observatoryfurther calls for an end to all attempts to criminalise members of MASUM andcalls for the Indian authorities to respects its international engagementsregarding freedom of expression and association.
On November 21, 2014, law enforcement agents from the Raninagar PoliceStation arrested Mr. Sarkarat his place of residence and subsequently transferred him to the ACJM Court, Lalbagh, on November 22. Mr. Sarkarwas reportedly arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant for a previous pendingcriminal case under the Passport Act.
Case No. 364/2013, datedJune 5, 2013, was brought against Mr. Sarkar by Mr. Char Mourasi, B.O.P. ‘C’Company of 130 Battalion of the BSF under section 12 of the Passport Act of1967 (GR 1738/2013). On May 20, 2014, Mr. Sarkar filed an application beforethe ACJM Court, Lalbagh, expressing his concern that he had been falselyimplicated in an unknown criminal case by the police and the BSF, andrequesting more details about such case. However, until the arrest Mr. Sarkarhad not received any information about the status of the said criminal case,neither has he received any summons from the police or the court.
According to the sameinformation, Mr. Rana Mohanta, Mr. Sarkar’s defense counsel, reported that hisclient was assaulted, abused and misltreated by the police at the time of hisarrest as well as in custody. Upon hearing his testimony the Court ordered thatMr. Sarkar be released on bail and that he undergo a medical examination undersupervision of the Inspector of the General Record Office (GRO) of the ACJMCourt, Lalbagh. The Medical Officer of Lalbagh Sub Divisional hospital examinedMr. Sarkar and advised that he be admitted to hospital, suspecting that hisribs were fractured due to having been kicked and punched while in policecustody. As of issuing this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Sarkar’s doctor had referred him to the Ajimuddin District Hospital,as his condition had deteriorated and was not manageable at the Lalbagh SubDivisional Hospital. This came as Mr Sarkar, who is suffering suspectedfractures to his ribs and backbone, had to wait for more than. 24 hours afterthe incident before he got an X-Ray examination, and received a visit fromdoctors.
Mr. Sarkar does not hold apassport and according to the information received, he has never crossedIndia's borders into any other country. However, the police seem to havefabricated this criminal case against him not only to harass him but also tosend a warning to the local population that advocating for human rights wouldbe sanctioned by the police.
According to the sameinformation, judicial harassment regarding the same criminal case is alsoongoing against Mr. Kirity Roy, Secretary of MASUM.
Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrityof Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar aswell as of all human rights defenders in India;
ii. Release Mr. AjimuddinSarkar immediately and unconditionally, since his detention is arbitraryas it only seems to be aimed at sanctioning his human rights activities
iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparentinvestigation into the abovementioned events in order to identify all thoseresponsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them asprovided by the law;
iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level -against Mr. AjimuddinSarkar, Mr. Kirity Roy and all members of MASUM as well as against allhuman rights defenders in India so that they are able to carry out their workwithout hindrances;
v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9,1998, especially:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually andin association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection andrealisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national andinternational levels”; and
- Article 12.2, which provides that “"the State shall take allnecessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities ofeveryone, individually and 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 herlegitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; and
vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rightsand fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified byIndia.
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh,Union Minister of Home Affairs,Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax:+91 11 2309 2979
· Justice Rajendra MalLodha, Chief Justice of India,Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792,Email: email@example.com
· Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission ofIndia, Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C,GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi - 110023, India. Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
· Mr. A. K. Parashar,Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission,Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Miss Mamata Banerjee,Chief Minister, Chief Minister of West Bengal, 325, Sarat Chatterjee Rd, Shibpur, Howrah, West Bengal 711102, Telephone: +91 33 2214-5555, 2214-3101
Fax: +91 33 2214-3528 E-mail: email@example.com
· H.E. Mr. DilipSinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations(Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96,Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Embassyof India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax:+32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869
Please also write tothe diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.