India
25.05.18
Urgent Interventions

Repression of a peaceful protest resulting in the death of 13 protesters in Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu

IND 005 / 0518 / OBS 076

Obstacles to freedom of peaceful assembly/

Killings

India

May 25, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situationin India.

Brief descriptionof the information:

The Observatory has been informed byreliable sources about the repression of a peaceful protest against environmental pollution, which resulted in thedeath of 13 protesters[1] in Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu State.

According to the information received, on May 22, 2018, a large and diverse group of protestersgathered to peacefully march towards the Thoothukudi District Collectorate (theDistrict Head Office), demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper smeltingplant, over concerns regarding the impact of the plant’s operations, includingenvironmental pollution and groundwater contamination, as well as on the healthof the local population. The march marked 100 continuous days of peacefulprotests since February 22, 2018, which included a peacefully assembly of over200,000 people on March 24, 2018.

During the protest, police attempted to disperse protesters severaltimes, by charging them with batons (lahti). However, this had little impact indispersing the crowd, and consequently heightened tensions between police andprotesters.

Following these failed attempts to disperse the protesters, the policeused assault rifles to fire indiscriminately and without warning on protesters,against standard operating procedures under relevant international standards[2].This resulted in further shooting at different locations along the route to theDistrict Collectorate, including by individuals who were not wearing policeuniforms, and from the top of moving vehicles. The crackdown resulted in thedeath of the above-mentioned 13 protesters, including three women, and theinjury of many others.

Following the events, the Government of Tamil Nadu hurriedly announcedthe formation of a commission of inquiry to investigate events during theprotest and appointed a former judge to preside the commission.

Moreover, on May 22, 2018, the District Collectorordered the enforcement of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, whichprohibits an assembly of more than four people in an area. The Chief Secretaryalso issued a directive ordering an Internet shutdown in Thoothukudi and in thenearby districts of Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli from May 23 to May 27, 2018, inthe “interest of maintaining public order”[3].The directive further stated that it was “necessary that services of Internetshould be stopped/curtailed to prevent spreading of (…) rumours with half-truth”.

The Observatory condemns the use of lethal force against peacefulprotesters who exercised their rights to peaceful assembly in the defence ofenvironmental rights. The Observatory urges the authorities and the NationalHuman Rights Commission of India to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial andtransparent investigation into the above-mentioned events without undue delayand hold those responsible accountable.

Actions requested:

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

i.Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical andpsychological integrity of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, andtransparent investigation into the use of lethal force by law enforcementpersonnel in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before anindependent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii.Put an end to all acts of harassment human rightsdefenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carryout their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all their international obligations torespect the exercise of the citizens' right to freedom of association andassembly, as established in the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights, in particular its Articles 21 and 22;

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, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1, and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamentalfreedoms in accordance with international human rights standards andinternational instruments ratified by India.

Please also write to the National Human Rights Commission of India,urging it to:

vii. Exercise its powers under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993,and immediately intervene in this case of killing of protestors through anindependent, impartial and time-bound investigation undertake by its owninvestigation wing along with its Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders;

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra DamodardasModi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, UnionMinister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in

· Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in

· Justice Dipak Misra, Chief Justice of India,Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the NationalHuman Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in

· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, NationalHuman Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to theUnited Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri,Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels,Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

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

***

Geneva-Paris, May 25, 2018

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

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


[1] Including Mr. Kandhaiya,Mr. Gladston, Mr. Tamilarasan, Mr. Shanmugam, Mr. Maniraj,Mr. Anthony Selvaraj, Mr. Ranjith Kumar, Mr. Karthick, Mr.Kaliappan, Ms. Snowlin and Ms. Vinitha.

[2] See provisions 2, 9-14in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law EnforcementOfficials: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/UseOfForceAndFirearms.aspx

[3] The directive issued by the Chief Secretary was passed undersub-rule (1) of the Rule 2 of the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services(Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017 “in the interest of maintainingpublic order and preventing incitement to the commission or any offense passingthrough the Internet”.

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