Posts Tagged ‘Draconian laws’

DIGEST OF INTERNATIONAL JURISPRUDENCE ON THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS WHILE COUNTERING TERRORISM

June 16, 2012

The non-state armed groups (insurgents, extremists or terrorists, whatever you may call them) need to be dealt with and contained because they violate rights of the people to live peacefully, they try to impose their will on the people and the state unlawfully and violently trampling the constitutionalism and the rule of law that are sine qua non for civilised human existence. It is the mandate of the state to maintain the reign of law and constitution and the writ of the government established by law along with ensuring security and safety of the person and property of the citizens. But when the state through its security forces and law enforcement agencies commits more atrocious acts than the acts which it professes it is fighting the difference between the non-state terrorists and the state gets blurred.

Since independence in 1947 as in colonial times India has a number of laws containing provisions that are termed by the liberal jurists and human rights defenders as draconian and repressive unparalleled in the democratic world. Such laws are held responsible for regular violations of human rights with impunity resulting in defeat of the rule of law and continuity of lawlessness breeding more terrorism and violence. Despite this reality there is also a shrill voice for more stringent laws in the country.

Even before the terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November, 2008 the demand for “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” kept getting shriller and hasher and was being projected as panacea. It started after the present parliament repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA), although some provisions of POTA incompatible with human rights laws were incorporated into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) by way of amendment. The discourse of ‘tough’ laws is premised entirely on the misrepresentation of facts. It seems that the advocates of ‘tough’ laws want us to believe that there were no terrorist attacks in India when some of the “toughest” (read most draconian) laws in the civilised world were in force such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and its other local variants; the National Security Act, 1980 (NSA); the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act, 1987 (TADA); POTA; UAPA and other state enactments. But the reality is that some of the worst terror offences were perpetrated when these “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” were in force such as hijack of an airIndia flight from Kathmandu to Kandhahar, Red Fort attack, parliament attack etc.

New law becomes necessary when existing provisions are proved ineffective or counter effective. There are still many draconian and colonial provisions in our general criminal law composed of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) the Evidence Act, 1972 and others. Records of implementation and effective implementation of laws in India is very dismal due to many factors including corruption and inadequacy in both quantity and quality of man-power in the Criminal Justice Administration System and the inefficacy of some of the provisions of law themselves. With registration of First Information Report the justice administration machinery gets into motion. There are hundreds of thousands of cases where police does not register FIR without being greased. It has become the rule in some part of the country. There are also numerous cases of custodial torture and death for not paying gratification by the detainee/arrestee or their relatives to the police. When the state of the things is this it is ridiculous to think that “stronger and tougher anti-terror laws” will free us from crimes and criminals, let alone the question of terrorism.

Terrorism is the worst form of crime. It is just a matter of common sense that the people who love to kill and get killed would not have any fear of law howsoever “tough” and “strong” that law may be. Soon after the terrorist attack in Mumbai, Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) reminded that “it has been seen that in countering terrorism the state often succumbs to the design of the terrorists by failing to respect the human rights of the people. When this happens the terrorism triumphs because the state itself does the act of terror. More over, failure to respect human rights creates breeding ground of terrorism” in a statement issued to condemn the attack. Counter terror laws and practice violating human rights are used by the terrorists to justify their heinous acts and the state cites these terrorist acts to justify its acts of violations of human rights. In the process the ordinary human beings are just sandwiched between state and non state terror. These two forms of terrorism feed on each other and are same for general population.

Unfortunately the Indian State has succumbed to the terror design and gave them the triumph after the Mumbai attack. A bill has been passed amending the UAPA after the November attacks in Mumbai which violates international human rights treaties.

New amendments to anti-terror laws include: 1. Sweeping and overbroad definitions of “acts of terrorism” in violation of the principle of legality, 2. No clear and strict definition of what constitutes “membership” of a “terrorist gang or organization” also violate the principle, 3. Minimum period of detention of persons suspected to be involved in acts of terrorism extended to 30 days from 15 days and the maximum period of detention of such persons to 180 days from 90 days – already far beyond international standards, 4. Denial of bail to foreign nationals who may have entered the country in an unauthorised or illegal manner, except in very exceptional circumstances, also violates international human rights standard, 5. The requirement, in certain circumstances, of accused people to prove their innocence, is in violation of basic principle of universal criminal jurisprudence and natural justice.

Another new legislation has been passed constituting the National Investigating Agency which, inter alia, authorises special courts to close hearings to public without defining or limiting the grounds under which they may do so. This is also in violation of the due process principle.

While introducing the bill for amendment of the UAPA, the government took plea in the preamble of the bill that it is bound under several international instruments to combat terrorism specifically citing some select United Nations Security Council Resolutions such as1267 (1999), 1333 (2000), 1363 (2001), 1373 (2001), 1390 (2002), 1455 (2003), 1526 (2004), 1566 (2004), 1617 (2005), 1735 (2006) and 1822 (2008). But ignored the dictum of the resolution 1535 (2004) adopted by the Security Council at its 4936th meeting, on 26 March 2004 which reminded the “States that they must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law, and should adopt such measures in accordance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law”. More over, there are many international instruments acceded or ratified by India which put the state under obligation to adhere to the human rights norms in all its activities including counter terrorism.

When POTA was repealed by the government most of the resolutions cited were in existence. Citation of these resolution and invoking international obligations are nothing but taking recourse to false plea. A look into the jurisprudence of the united nations and regional organizations on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism would show the hypocrisy of the Indian State so far its invocation of the international obligations is concerned.

In this background the digest on terror jurisprudence complied by the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights of the United Nations is a necessary tool for the human rights defenders, lawyers, academics, law-enforcement officials. law-makers, policy makers etc. The digest can be downloaded from here.

UN envoy asks India to repeal AFSPA and other draconian laws

March 30, 2012

Press Statement – Country Mission to India Christof Heyns, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions 19 – 30 March 2012

 

At the invitation of the Government of India, I conducted an official visit to this country from 19 to 30 March 2012. I travelled toNew Delhi, as well as to five States, namely: Gujarat; Kerala;Jammu and Kashmir, where I had meetings in the cities ofJammuandSrinagar;Assam; andWest Bengal.

I am grateful to the Government of India for extending an invitation to my mandate. I am further particularly thankful to the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot, and his team, for having facilitated the preparation and conduct of my mission.

During this country visit, I had the opportunity to meet with Secretaries from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Ministry of Law and Justice, officials from the Ministry of Defence and other Ministries at Union level. At State level, I met the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, State Chief Secretaries and other Secretaries; Commissioners, Directors General and other relevant officers of the Police; and other senior officials. I also visited the Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission and the Assam Human Rights Commission. In addition, I held meetings with the United Nations agencies, as well as a wide range of domestic and international non-governmental organisations, lawyers, witnesses, and victims and their families.

My mission focussed in particular on the right to life in the context of the use of force by the police and the armed forces, and on the possible impact on the right to life of cultural practices.

My provisional conclusions are as follows:

A) General comments

India, often described as the world’s largest democracy, has a Constitution that guarantees a wide range of human rights, and is a living document, supported by broad public endorsement and enforced by a strong Supreme Court, whose human rights jurisprudence is respected worldwide. The right to life (article 21 of the Constitution) in particular has been given an extensive interpretation by the courts.

There is a robust press, and a vibrant and engaged human rights civil society.Indiahas ratified a number of international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

At the same timeIndiafaces many challenges to the realisation of human rights, including movements aimed at separation or greater local autonomy, Maoist or Naxalite, insurgency, organised crime, and communal organisations opposed to secularism, plurality and equality.Indiaaccommodates a huge diversity in terms of religion, languages and culture, largely in a remarkably peaceful way.  The state structure is federal in nature.

The challenge to protect, promote and respect the right to life is undeniably a real one. It is of concern however that despite constitutional guarantees and a robust human rights jurisprudence, extrajudicial killings is a matter of serious concern inIndia. However, it is important to emphasise the solution to these issues largely lies within the system itself.

While data available on extrajudicial executions inIndiais not easy to obtain, in some parts, particularly in conflict areas where political dialogue has been initiated by the government, or where there has been a concerted shift to move away from such occurrences, the last couple of years appear to have seen a drop in respect of unlawful killings. This momentum – and the general commitment to human rights in the country – should now be captured to obliterate the unacceptable levels of deadly violence that remain, and assume higher moral ground.

While I will make some concrete proposals about changes to be affected, I will also propose a process to be followed to address this issue.

Indiahas not hosted many Human Rights Council special procedures. In 2011 it extended an open invitation to special procedures, and to its credit it admitted, for the first visit under this open invitation, the mandate on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, a mandate covering an area in which it faces well-documented challenges. This reflects a commendable willingness to engage with the issue of unlawful killings in a constructive manner – giving further credence to the view that there may at the moment be a window of opportunity to take significant and decisive steps forward on this issue.

B) Concerns

I have the following concerns about unlawful killings, both in terms of prevention and accountability:

  1. Use of force by State actors

a) Police

There are complaints of use of excessive force by the police against unarmed demonstrators and protestors, with scant adherence to the principles of proportionality and necessity.

Disproportionate use of force during demonstrations has resulted in over 100 deaths, in 2010 inJammu and Kashmir, while elsewhere, such as inNew Delhi, many demonstrations occur without bloodshed. I have been told by the police of a few states that they have recently started using less lethal weapons and other more modern methods of crowd control.

Salutary guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the D.K.Basu judgment on arrest, detention and interrogation, many of which have been incorporated through amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, are not sufficiently complied with.

Significantly, problems concerning excessive and arbitrary use of force by the police are further aggravated by statutory immunities that restrict accountability.  Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires prior sanction from the concerned government before cognizance can be taken of any offence by a public servant for criminal prosecution.

A practice of what is called ‘fake encounters’ has developed in parts of the country. Where this occurs, suspected criminals or those labelled as terrorists or insurgents, and in some cases people on whose head there is a prize, are shot dead by the police, and a scene of a shootout is staged. Those killed are then portrayed as the aggressors who had first opened fire and the police escape legal sanction. According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 2 965 cases of ‘encounters’ have been reported between 1993 and 2010, though there is possibly under-reporting.

While the use of ‘encounters’ to eliminate criminals has decreased since the 1990s, it is nevertheless being deployed to target others.

A seminal case from Andhra Pradesh is currently pending before the Supreme Court wherein the High court had held that in situations where deaths occur at the hands of police in cases of alleged returning fire, a first information report (FIR) must be registered, the case investigated and the claim of self-defence by the police proven in a trial before the court.

In a positive development, the Supreme Court and the NHRC have issued guidelines on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and on encounters.

b) Custodial deaths

There have been a large number of cases recorded on deaths that have occurred in police as well as judicial custody, often in the context of torture.  I have been assured by Government representatives that the process of passing the legislation on torture as proposed by the Select Committee of the Upper House is well under way, which will allow the ratification of the Convention Against Torture. Needless to say this proposed legislation must be compliant with CAT and must include the mandatory provisions of training of police, prison cadre and other forces as well as orientation of the judiciary.

c) Armed Forces

The Armed Forces are deployed in so-called ‘disturbed areas’ in the North East and inJammu and Kashmir.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in effect allows the state to override rights in the ‘disturbed areas’ in a much more intrusive way than would be the case under a state of emergency, since the right to life is in effect suspended, and this is done without the safeguards applicable to states of emergency. ^

AFSPA – continuously in force since 1958 (different states have their own versions as well) in the North East and since 1990 inJammu and Kashmir– has become a symbol of excessive state power. I have heard extensive evidence of action taken under this law that resulted in innocent lives being lost, inJammu and Kashmirand inAssam, where witnesses from neighbouring states also assembled. This law was described to me as ‘hated’ and a member of a state human rights commission called it ‘draconian’.

A law such as AFSPA has no role to play in a democracy and should be scrapped. The repeal of this law will not only bring domestic law more in line with international standards, but also send out a powerful message that instead of a military approach the government is committed to respect for the right to life of all people of the country.

The government-appointed Jeevan Reddy Committee and the Administrative Reform Commission have both called for its repeal; as have political leaders of states where the Act applies. The NHRC told me during our meeting that they are in favour of its repeal and that they have commented in their submission to the 2012 UPR that AFSPA often leads to the violation of human rights. It is therefore difficult to understand how the Supreme Court, which has been so progressive in other areas, also concerning the right to life, could have ruled in 1997 that AFSPA did not violate the Constitution – although they tried, seemingly with little success, to mitigate its impact by issuing guidelines on how it is to be implemented.

AFSPA clearly violates International Law.  A number of UN treaty bodies have pronounced it to be in violation of International Law, namely HRC (1997), CEDAW (2007), CERD (2007) and CESCR (2008). My predecessor has also called for its repeal.

The widespread deployment of the military creates an environment in which the exception becomes the rule, and the use of lethal force is seen as the primary response to conflict with a concomitant permissive approach in respect of the use of lethal force. This is also difficult to reconcile in the long run withIndia’s insistence that it is not engaged in armed conflict.

Accountability is circumvented by invoking AFSPA’s requirement of obtaining prior sanction from the Central government before any civil prosecutions can be initiated against armed forces personnel. The information received through Right to Information applications, shows that this immunity provision effectively blocks any prosecution of members of the armed forces. The Centre has for example never granted sanction for civil prosecution of a member of the armed forces inJammu and Kashmir.

d) Death penalty

Indian law continues to provide for the death penalty, and in around 100 cases per year this sentence is imposed. However, once imposed, there seems to be little appetite to execute. The last execution was in 2004, although another execution has just been stayed at the last minute during the writing of this report.

It is a matter of concern that the death penalty may be imposed for a (seemingly growing) number of crimes that cannot be regarded as ‘the most serious crimes’ referred to in article 6 of the ICCPR  as internationally understood, namely crimes involving intentional killing. For example, the death penalty may be imposed for kidnapping for ransom under Sec. 364A IPC and has also been proposed in the Prevention of Torture Bill and for drug-related offences. I intend to follow up on the concerns expressed that the categories of capital crimes are being expanded.

The phrase ‘rarest of the rare cases’ (taken from Bachan Singh v State of Punjab) is often used to describe the Indian approach to the death penalty. However, this may create the wrong impression, since the list of crimes for which this sentence may be imposed is still much wider than the one provided for under international law. Even if the death penalty is not implemented, those who had been sentenced to death remain on death row for extraordinarily long periods, while, as one interlocutor put it, ‘they remain hanging there’.

My attention was drawn to the case of Ravji alias Ram Chandra v. State of Rajasthan (1996) 2 SCC 175, where the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence and held that circumstances pertaining to the criminal need not be considered, in spite of earlier authority to the contrary. Subsequently, in seven cases, the Supreme Court invoked the precedent of Ravji Rao’s case to foreclose inquiry into the circumstances pertaining to the prisoner. A total of 14 prisoners were sentenced to death by the Supreme Court on the basis of flawed legal reasoning. Out of these 14 prisoners, two – including Ravji – have been executed.

2) Use of force by non-state actors

a) Terrorists, criminals and others

Deadly violence has been used by Maoists, insurgents, and terrorists. The callous nature in which lives, often of innocent civilians, are taken by these non-state actors needs to be condemned strongly. The state has a right to defend itself against such aggression, provided it abides by the international standards in this regard. The state however cannot adopt unlawful or unconstitutional means or create a vigilante force to counter such violence.

b) Communal violence

I have heard evidence regarding a number of instances where inter-community violence has occurred, resulting in large-scale loss of life. In particular I have met with a large number of people who lost relatives during theGujaratkillings of Muslims in 2002 and the Kandhamal killings of Christians in 2007/8, during which between 1200 – 2500 people and between 50 and 100 people, respectively, were reportedly killed. It is a matter of regret that theGujaratauthorities at the last minute cancelled the meetings we had scheduled during the mission.

In these cases grave allegations of direct state involvement in the killings has been made; moreover in all cases the state has the responsibility to protect citizens against such violence.

The phenomenon of mass and targeted communal violence clearly poses a significant threat to the right to life, also because it sets into motion a cycle of violence that stretches over the years. One of the problems here is that the role of the police and other agencies of the state in these situations could involve bias against minorities. I will further examine this issue.

A number of people have proposed the introduction of the doctrine of some form of ‘command responsibility’ and ‘superior responsibility’, in domestic law, to hold culpable persons in positions of political, civil and administrative power and authority, complicit in the communal violence. I will also examine this matter further.

c)  Traditional practices affecting women

‘Honour’ killings occur where a woman is killed by her family or community because she has exercised her right to choose a partner, particularly when the partner belongs to a different community, caste or religion. This crime is reportedly on the ascendance.  It is currently dealt with as murder under the Indian Penal Code.  There have been suggestions that this be dealt with under a separate piece of legislation so as to highlight the unique nature of such killings.

Dowry deaths occur where a husband or his relatives are dissatisfied by the amount of dowry brought by the wife, and cause her death.  Special legal provisions have been enacted to punish this crime in the Indian Evidence Act. The unnatural death of a wife within seven years of marriage, under suspicious circumstances, including burning or other bodily injuries, and where she is known to have been harassed and treated cruelly  by her husband or his relatives on account of dowry,  creates a presumption that a dowry death has been committed by the husband or his relatives.

The branding of elderly and single women as witches, while largely associated with tribal areas is no longer confined to these regions. Property reasons often underlie these killings.

This is a difficult area for any state to address. While accountability and punishment is important in the context of the above gender-based killings, it is not clear that increasing the punishment, however severe, will lead to prevention. Ensuring certainty of conviction and some form of consequence to establish the norm seems to be more important. This is often difficult for a host of reasons, including the fact that there is general social sanction for the crime, and the police often do not address these killings as crimes. The values at stake are often viewed as more important than life itself. A change in the values themselves is therefore required, a task for which an institution such as the NHRC should be eminently suited.

3) Systemic challenges

a) Justice delayed is justice denied

The complaint is widely raised that the wheels of justice, when they turn, often do so too slowly. Legal proceedings drift for years, while the alleged perpetrators are out on bail and back in the community. The Nanavati Commission of Inquiry inGujarathas now taken 10 years without any concrete results. This is exacerbated by the symbolic importance of the events that are being investigated, and inevitably the conclusion will be drawn that this is not a matter of priority. Similarly, the Supreme Court in 2006 issued a directive for the establishment of Police Complaints Authorities, but in many cases this has not been done.

b) Perpetrators receive awards

Many of the people I interviewed whose family members had been killed, pointed out that the alleged perpetrators, belonging to the police or the armed forces, have been awarded out of turn promotions, or have in other ways been rewarded.

c) Compensation instead of prosecution

While in some cases of custodial death and death due to excessive use of force compensation is paid by the state, criminal investigation and prosecution against the perpetrators is rarely initiated. Consequently few if any are punished for violating the right to life. This is also a manifestation of a military as opposed to a rights based approach. It blunts the deterrent effect of the law and encourages impunity.

d) Burden on the victim

The burden of initiating civil, criminal or writ proceedings in cases of custodial deaths or ‘encounter’ killings, for compensation or securing accountability and punishment, is placed on the victim’s family. Their marginalised and vulnerable status cripples their ability to secure accountability for the violation of the right to life.

e) Form over substance  

Standards such as the Supreme Court and NHRC guidelines mentioned above are often not followed in practice. On most occasions, where the alleged accused are men in uniform, belonging to the police or the armed forces, registration of First Information Reports (FIR) is refused, further deterring access to justice. In case of ‘encounter’ killings, the police lodge the FIR under Sec. 301 IPC, for attempt to murder, naming the deceased as the accused and close the case. Families are also unable to access and secure autopsy reports. Laws and policies are mostly in place, but they are not implemented.

f) Statutory immunities and good faith clause

The statutory provisions of requirement of prior sanction, for a Court to take cognizance of offences committed by public servants, including the police and armed forces, while discharging official duty, coupled with the presumption of good faith for acts done, effectively renders them immune from criminal prosecution.

g) Marginalised groups

Groups such as the dalits and the adivasis are particularly vulnerable, also in respect of the right to life. The increased targeting of ‘right to information’ activists and human rights defenders by land, forest and mining interest groups has also been reported to me.

h) Witness and victim protection

The lack of a systematic witness and victim protection system places them at risk, and leads to impunity.

4. The role of the human rights institutions

The National Human Rights Commission has a proud record and has a critical role to play in the protection of the right to life, especially with reference to ensuring strict compliance with its Guidelines on Encounter Killings.

The NHRC presently seems, from my interaction with them, to be taking a largely legalistic and deferential approach. During our discussions the approach on a number of points was that there are laws in place to deal with matters, and nothing more is required.

The state human rights institutions inspire little confidence. The Manipur Human Rights Commission was for all practical purposes closed after it challenged abuse of power by the police. A member of another state commission told me the commission was ‘subordinate’ to the government – there was not even pretence of independence. In West-Bengal, NGOs showed me how the number of cases they refer to the Commission has dropped to zero for 2012, because it serves no purpose.

The fact that lodging a complaint with a state commission blocks access to the NHRC raises the question whether their presence helps or hinders complainants.

C) Conclusions

There is reason for serious concern about extrajudicial executions. The National Human Rights Commission has on occasion said ‘extrajudicial executions have become virtually a part of state policy’. The position may have improved in some respects, but has not been resolved, and the legacy of the past is bound to continue into the future.

To a large extent the required structures to decrease extrajudicial executions are already in place. The steps to be taken have also by and large been identified within the system. What is required is a concerted and systematic effort by the state, civil society and all others concerned to eradicate its occurrence. In this process some of the best practices that are already followed in the country should be used as models for reform elsewhere. I have been impressed, for example, by the measures taken inKeralaStateto make the police force more responsive to the needs of the public.

Impunity for extrajudicial executions is the central problem. This gives perpetrators a free reign, and leaves victims in a situation where they either are left helpless, or have to retaliate. The obstacles to accountability that are in place – in particular the need for prior sanction of prosecutions – should be removed.

Women and minorities – religious minorities, as well as dalits and adivasis – as well as human rights defenders, including right to information activists, are especially at risk, and their protection deserves special measures.

Almost everyone interviewed said that the courts, and the Supreme Court in particular, play a central role in the fight against unlawful killings. The same applies to the role of the media. I was also struck by the level of expertise and responsibility in civil society.

It is evident that the killings of people take place in the context of other abuses, such as torture and enforced disappearances. Preventing these other abuses can under some circumstances prevent the taking of life.

It is clear that in general the underlying causes of some of the violence need to be addressed, including the levels of development of those who are currently using force to oppose state policies. Andhra Pradesh was mentioned to me as an example in this regard.

There is a strong need for victims to speak about their experiences. A large number of the almost 200 victims who made presentations to me emphasised the need to know the truth, and to ‘clear the names’ of their loved ones who had been killed in ‘fake encounters’. However, a credible national process will have far greater legitimacy in this regard than an international one. Some form of – internal – transformative justice is called for. InJammu and Kashmirthe Chief Minister called for a truth and reconciliation commission. It must be underscored that justice for the victims, accountability and punishment of the perpetrators, that is a real end to impunity for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and torture, are essential elements of any such process.

A public commitment to the eradication of the phenomenon of unlawful killings is needed. In this context it could be valuable to highlight to the public and to those in the structures of the State the historical and global role the country has played in promoting non-violence worldwide, including non-violent demonstrations, and the fact that extrajudicial executions is its opposite. A Commission of Inquiry, drawing on some of the outstanding jurists and other figures that the country has produced, can play this role.

There should be a special focus on the areas of the country where specific forms of unlawful killings take place. In some instances some form of transitional justice may be required, to ensure justice to the victims, break the cycle of violence, and to symbolize a new beginning.

Specific and targeted attention should be given to the following issues: challenging the general culture of impunity; addressing the practice of ‘fake encounters’, to ensure that it is rooted out; and ensuring that swift and decisive action, with concrete outcomes, is taken when there are mass targeted killings. The Commission has to be required to complete its work within a reasonably short period of time, also to demonstrate that a new approach is being followed. In this respect it will be useful to look at possible lessons to be learned from the recent appointment of a judge to investigate extrajudicial executions inGujarat, which at this stage appears to be a positive development.

D) Provisional recommendations

1. A credible Commission of Inquiry that inspires the confidence of the people, into extrajudicial executions inIndiashould be appointed by the Government which also serves a transitional justice role. The Commission should investigate allegations concerning past violations, propose where relevant measures to deal with those, and work out a plan of action for the future to eradicate practices of extrajudicial executions. The Commission must submit recommendations on legal reform, and the reform of state structures, security apparatus and processes that encourage impunity.

Without waiting for the Commission, the following steps should be taken as a matter of priority:

2. Ratification of the following international instruments should take place without further delay: Convention Against Torture; OP-CAT; and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. Ratification of the following instruments should be considered: The two Optional Protocols to the ICCPR; Optional Protocol to CEDAW; Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; and the two Optional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions.

3. Repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and theJammuandKashmirArmed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990. To tie this to the announcement of the Commission mentioned above will send a powerful signal about the State’s commitment to a new dispensation.

4. Repeal the following laws or bring them otherwise into conformity with the applicable international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and the Basic Principles on Extrajudicial Executions: Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act; Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, 2005; Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act; provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967; and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005;

5. Enact the Prevention of Torture Bill, along the lines of the amendments proposed by the Select Committee of the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) ensuring its compliance with CAT.

6. There should be regular review and monitoring of the status of implementation of the directives of the Supreme Court and the NHRC guidelines on arrest, custodial violence, encounter killings and custodial death. In particular, the establishment of the independent Police Complaints Authorities by the States should now be made a priority.

7. To counter impunity for extrajudicial executions, where the police cause the death of a person in an ‘encounter’, there must be mandatory registration of FIR under Sec.302 IPC against the police and there must be an independent investigation of the same. Whether the police acted in self-defence or committed culpable homicide is to be decided by the competent court.

8. Families of victims should have full and easy access to autopsy reports, death certificates and other relevant documentation to allow them to proceed with their lives.

9. The practice of inviting UN special procedures should be continued, especially in areas where international concern has been expressed, such as torture, counter-terrorism measures, and minority rights.

10. Increased sensitizations and orientation programmes in respect of gender-based killings, ‘honour’ killings, dowry deaths and witch killings should be undertaken, both for the police, judiciary and public especially in the areas of the country that most affected.

11. An effective witness and victim protection programme should be established.

12. The National Human Rights Commission should be given the mandate to investigate the actions of the Armed Forces, and there should not be a year cut-off date on the cases they can consider. The Commission should develop a strategy to enhance its contribution towards protecting the right to life which goes beyond mere references to laws and procedures, and focuses on actual impact. The NHRC should undertake a review of compliance with its guidelines on ‘encounter’ killings, and whether their guidelines work in practice. They should also issue guidelines on inquests and autopsies. The independence and working of state human rights commissions should be reviewed.

13. Place a moratorium on the death penalty in accordance with General Assembly resolution 65/206.

URL http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12029&LangID=E

Submission of BHRPC to the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions

March 28, 2012

The few representative cases submitted here clearly show the abysmal state of lawlessness which people live in.  Life here is virtually “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (as was claimed by Thomas Hobbes in his The Leviathan) for some people, particularly those who belong to the vulnerable groups such as minority communities, working class.

The alleged perpetrators in some of the cases belong to the armed forces ofIndiawhether regular military or para-military operating invariably under the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. The Act empowers members of the armed forces to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court inIndia.

Some other cases of extra-judicial execution noted above were perpetrated by the state police who operate under a state version of the AFSPA titled the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955. Along with these special security laws with draconian provisions and laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, the regular law that governs the policing in Assam is the Assam Police Act, 2007, which was enacted apparently to comply with the requirements of the directives issued by the Supreme Court of India in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India (also known as the police reform case), in essence conform more with the colonial-era Police Act of 1861. The colonial police law was not aimed to provide democratic policing. It meant to create a repressive force subservient to ruling class and devoid of any accountability to the law and people.

After decades of public pressure, lack of political will and continued poor policing, a police reform process is finally underway inIndiaas the apex court stepped in. On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court delivered a historic judgment in Prakash Singh and Others vs. Union of India and Others instructing central and state governments to comply with a set of seven directives laying down practical mechanisms to kick-start reform.

The directives were aimed to ensure functional autonomy of the police and their accountability to the law. For ensuring functional autonomy the Supreme Court directed 1. to establish a State Security Commission to i. ensure that the state government does not exercise unwarranted influence or pressure on the police; lay down broad policy guidelines aimed at promoting efficient, effective, responsive and accountable policing, in accordance with the law; give directions for the performance of the preventive tasks and service oriented functions of the police; evaluate the performance of the state police and prepare a report on police performance to be placed before the state legislature.

2. The second directive was aimed at ensuring fair selection of Director General of Police (DGP) and guarantee of his tenure.

3. Security of tenure is similarly important for other police officers on operational duties in the field. In order to help them withstand undue political interference, have time to properly understand the needs of their jurisdictions and do justice to their jobs, the Supreme Court provides for a minimum tenure of two years for the following categories of officers:           – Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Zone)

- Deputy Inspector General of Police (in charge of a Range)

- Superintendent of Police (in charge of a District)

- Station House Officer (in charge of a Police Station)

4. To counter the prevailing practice of subjective appointments, transfers and promotions, the Supreme Court provides for the creation of a Police Establishment Board. In effect, the Board brings these crucial service related matters largely under police control. Notably, a trend in international best practice is that government has a role in appointing and managing senior police leadership, but service related matters of other ranks remain internal matters. Experience inIndiashows that this statutory demarcation is absolutely required in order to decrease corruption and undue patronage, given the prevailing illegitimate political interference in decisions regarding police appointments, transfers and promotions.

5. the Supreme Court directed the Central Government to establish a National Security Commission for Central Police Organisations and Central Cara-Military Forces.

For ensuring accountability the Supreme Court directed the governments to set up:

6. Police Complaints Authority and

7. To separate investigation and law and order function of police.

The Commonwealth Initiative for Human Rights (CHRI), a regional human rights organization which was also one of the interveners in the Prakash Shingh case, after an analysis of the newly enacted Assam Police Act says that the Act only partially complies with the directives:

State Security Commission was established but the composition is not as per the Supreme Court directive. The Act has also weakened the mandate of the commission and has made its recommendation non-binding.

The second directive regarding selection process of the DGP and guarantee of his tenure not complied.

Directive regarding guarantee of tenure of the police officers on the field are also not complied. Only one year of tenure is guaranteed to the Superintendent of Police in charge of a district and Officer-in-Charge of a police station with vague grounds for premature removal.

Police Establishment Board was set up but the mandate was not adhered to. DGP has also been given the power to transfer any officer up to the rank of Inspector “as deemed appropriate to meet any contingency”, contrary to the directive.

The Central Government did not establish National Security Commission in utter contempt of the judgment.

The Assam Police Act, 2007 establishes Police Accountability Commission to enquire into public complaints supported by sworn statement against the police personnel for serious misconduct and perform such other functions. But the Chairperson and members of the Commission are appointed directly by the government. This can, at best, be called partial compliance.

Half hearted attempts can also be seen regarding separation of investigation from law and order function of the police. Special Crime Investigation Unit has been set up in urban police stations but there is no specific section on separation of between law and order and crime investigation.

This deliberate attempt to bypass the Supreme Court directives prompted the petitioner in the case formerAssamdirector-general of police Prakash Singh to describe the Assam Police Act, 2007, as a fraud on the people of the state. He was speaking at a seminar  jointly organised by the commission and the Assam State Legal Services Authority at theAssamAdministrativeStaffCollege, Guwahati. According to him, the government had violated the letter and spirit of the apex court guidelines by passing the act without conforming to these guidelines.

The Act needs drastic amendment to be brought in conformity with the Supreme Court guidelines and to be compatible with International Human Rights Standards. More importantly the role of the police needs to be redefined “taking into account the emerging challenges of policing and security of the State, the imperatives of good governance, and respect for human rights”.

The cases cited also highlight another huge challenge to the civil and political rights inAssamwhich is non-adherence and non-implementation of laws and other instruments that are meant to protect such rights. The Supreme Court guidelines in DK Basu case, and NHRPC guidelines regarding arrest, custodial deaths have the potential to drastically reduce the number of extra-judicial executions if implemented properly. The DK Basu guidelines are only implemented in papers. In rural police stations the guidelines are not even hung in a language eligible to the public at a conspicuous place.

It may be noted that in many of the cases mentioned no magisterial inquiry was conducted in contravention of the statutory mandate of section 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In the cases where such inquiries are conducted the magistrates employed were not judicial ones as is mandate of the law. Although even the executive magistrates when found in their inquiries the guilt of the accused police personnel established beyond doubt, neither prosecution has been started nor has any compensation been provided to the kin of the deceased. Apart from legal immunity provided by security legislations such as the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 there is a regime of de facto impunity guaranteed to the violators which is responsible for the increase of the cases of extrajudicial killings.

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BHRPC submits cases of extra-judicial executions in Barak valley to the Special Rapporteur

March 28, 2012

Guwahati, 28 March: “Ours is a case of doing works of police by the army and using the regular state police by ruling politicians as their personal army” said Waliullah Ahmed Laskar during his oral presentation at the North Eastern regional briefing to the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions held today here at Ashoka Brahmaputra hotel. Mr. Laskar, director of law and legal affairs of the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) added, “although there are no terrorist activities and any home grown insurgent groups in Barak valley that can pose a threat to the national integrity and security the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 is in force in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. The Act empowers the army personnel to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge. The AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court inIndia.” He further added that the state police also operate under a similar draconian law called the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 and showed how the Assam Police Act, 2007 is a fraud on the people as well as on the Supreme Court of India in so far as it claims to conform with requirements of directives issued by the supreme court in Prakash Singh and others Vs. Union of India and others.

He also submitted a report to the special rapporteur professor Christof Heyns, who is on a fact-finding mission inIndiafrom 19 March to 30 March, containing cases of extra-judicial or arbitrary killing of innocent people both by the state police and armed forces of the central government. Cases that were submitted include 1. killing of one Islamul Hoque Choudhury (of Sonai, Cachar) by police because he became to threat to them as he witnessed how they tortured another person to death, 2 extra-judicial killing of Hashmat Ali (Kalain, Cachar) by police after being bribed by another person to teach him a lesson, 3. death of Motahir Ali (Kalain, Cachar) caused by torture in police custody as his family could not pay the amount of bribe demanded by the police for his release, 4. death of Mr. Moyfor Raja (Katlicherra, Hailakandi) in police custody due to torture, 5. fake encounter killing of Jamir Uddin (Katlicherra, Hailakandi) by central reserve police force personnel, 6. death of Iskandar Ali (Dholai, Cachar) caused by indiscriminate firing of  CRF personnel at a market place, 7. killing of a car driver by police apparently for speeding and 8. extra-judicial execution of Iqbal Hussain Laskar (Algapur, Hailakandi) by army after they picked him up and some other cases.

The BHRPC urged the special rapporteur to recommend to the authorities inIndiato 1. to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958; 2. to repeal the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955; 3. to make the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 compatible with international human rights standards by amending the Act; 4. to bring the Assam Police Act, 2007 in conformity with the directives of the Supreme Court of India through amendment; 5. to amend the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to extend the jurisdiction of both the state and national human rights commissions to conduct independent inquiries into cases of alleged human rights violations by the armed forces and to lengthen the limitation period of one year to five years; 6. to constitute an independent commission headed by a retired chief justice of a high court or the supreme eligible to be appointed as the chief justice of India with adequate numbers of members from the civil society to conduct time-bound inquiries into all allegations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions leading to the initiation of prosecution and provision of adequate reparation; 7. to constitute special courts to conduct trial of all cases of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions under direct monitoring of the Supreme Court of India; and others.

At the meet presided over by Justice W A Shishak, former chief justice of the Chhattisgarh high court, Mr Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert (Manipur), Ms. Bubumoni Goswami, chairperson of the Manabadhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam), Ms Rosanna Lyngdoh of the Impulse NGO Network (Mehgalaya), Taring Mama of the Association for Civil Rights (Arunachal Pradesh), Neingulo Krome of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (Nagaland), Anthony Debbarma of the Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation (Tripura) and others also made both oral and written submissions.

The special rapporteur who is accompanied by the UN human rights officer Irina Tabirta and other staff said in his concluding remark that he was thankful to the government of India for extending invitation to his mandate to the country and he assured the participants that he would take up the issues raised here with the government of India and is going to have a press conference in Delhi on 30 March where he would share his preliminary recommendations. He is expected to submit his report on the situation of extra-judicial execution inIndiato the UN human rights council and the General Assembly of the UN at the end of this year.  (Submission of BHRPC to the SR on Summary Execution)

Neharul Ahmed Mazumder

Secretary General,

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee

People fast for repeal of AFSPA at Silchar, Assam

November 6, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Statement, November 02, 2011

People fast for repeal of AFSPA at Silchar, Assam

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Silchar, 6 November 2011: Hundreds of people gathered in front of the district headquarters at Silchar, Assam on 5 November, 2011 and demonstrated peacefully while observing symbolic fast for the day from 9am to 5pm in solidarity with the nationwide Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA campaign and to mark 11th year of epic fast by Irom Sharmila Chanu in demand of repeal of the draconian law called the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. The event was organized by Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), Human Rights Organisation, Cachar, (HRO). Apart from the members of some other social organizations such as Kishan Bikash Samiti, Banskandi, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam Majuri Shramik Union, COPE and others many lawyers, journalists, teachers, artists and cultural activists also participated.

Many community leaders, social workers, journalists, teachers and lawyers addressed the gathering and explained what is AFPSA, how it is affected our lives and why it needs to be immediately repealed. Every one who talked expressed his/her profound respect to Sharmila, her determination and sacrifice and urged the people to rally behind her until the bad law goes. Some of the speakers narrated some cases of indiscriminate killing, barbaric torture, inhuman treatment of the civilians by the members of the armed forces ofIndiain Barak valley, other parts of North East India andJammu and Kashmir.

Sadique Mohammed Laskar, joint secretary, BHRPC, opened the talk by welcoming the hunger strikers. He informed the gathering that this movemenr has become a worldwide phenomenon now and we are a part tat larger agitation against state repression and corporate loots. Womens rights activists and poet Snigdha Nath recited a Bengali version of the poem titled Imprisoned in Democracy by Musab Iqbal. Reputed lawyer and activist Mr. Imad Uddin Bulbul talked at length about the violence in North East, its reasons and particularly it impact on the day to day lives of common people. He also condemned violence by non-state actors. BHRPC secretary general Neharul Ahmed Mazumder discussed how the AFSPA takes away fundamental rights to life, liberty and human dignity enshrined in the constitution. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar, a prominent human rights defender in North East India, talked about politics of the AFSPA and other draconian laws and said such laws and policies are based on racism and fascism. He also brought our the lack of legality in the law by showing procedural and substantial deficiencies in the AFSPA. M Shantikumar Shingh said that it is hopeful that the people of Barak valley joined the movement, it does not matter that they did it after 11 years. Thirthankar Chanda laws are actually used to repress the voices of activists who protest against corruption, exploitation and corporate loot of natural resources jeopardizing environment and livelihood of the masses. President of Cachar Human Rights Organisation Mr. Irabat Shingh showed how AFSPA is misused and abused by narrating many cases of human rights violations.

Others who addressed the gathering include reporter Dilip Shingh, convener of All Barak Students Association Baharul Islam Barbhuiya, publicity secretary of Assa Meira Paibi Organisation Meiragnloi Devi, secretary of the Silchar Press Club Mr. Shankar Dey, Monir Uddin Laskar, Herajit Shingh, Reba Nath, Bikash Das Purakayastha, Arup Baishya, Dipankar Chanda, Pijush Das, Dayanand Shingh, Lili Devi and others. Everybody urged they central government to repeal the AFSPA and other draconian laws and seek the political solutions for the political problems. They also unanimously wanted to make the movement stronger and more widespread. After the fast was broken BHRPC submitted a memorandum addressed to the prime minister of Indiaurging him repeal the AFSPA.

For more information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Mobile: 09401942234

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com

Rongpur Part IV, Silchar-9

Assam, India.

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

Fasting Against AFSPA at Silchar on 5 Nov. 2011

BHRPC to observe fasting and demonstration for repeal of AFSPA

November 2, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Statement, October 02, 2011

 

BHRPC to observe fasting and demonstration for repeal of AFSPA

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), a voluntary organization for human rights working in Assam, in co-operation with Cachar Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) is organizing a one day symbolic fast and demonstration from 9am to 5pm on 5 November, 2011 in front of the district head quarters at Silchar (Assam, India) in demand of repeal of the draconian law called the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in solidarity with the nationwide campaign of Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA to mark the 11th year of epic fast of iconic human rights defender and poet-journalist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur.

The AFSPA is a piece of colonial legislation which gives the armed forces of India unfettered power: (i) to use lethal force even to the causing of death on civilians on mere suspicion that they may cause breach of any law or order, (ii) to search any dwelling places by breaking them on mere suspicion without warrant and (ii) to arrest people without warrant and to keep them in custody for unspecified time and the Act also bars the judiciary to question any acts of the armed forces operating under the Act in areas declared disturbed under the Act. The Act is in force in parts of North East includingAssam for more than five decades and a version of the Act inJammu and Kashmir for more than two decades. The Act violates the spirit and values of the Constitution of India, universally accepted human rights standards and democratic norms. Government appointed committees including the one chaired by Justice Jeevan Reddy also found the Act undesirable and unambiguously recommended for its repeal.

Actions taken under the Act caused hundreds of extra-judicial killings, rapes, torture, enforced disappearances putting the people living in the AFSPA affected area under terror, affecting normal governance and defeating democracy. Civil society groups across North East and from the other parts of the country advocating and agitating for repeal of the Act. The most emblematic protest has been carrying out by Irom Sharmila who has been on hunger strike since 5 November, 2000 in demand of the repeal of the Act. She is continuously arrested and re-arrested on charges attempt to commit suicide and forcibly fed through a nasal tube by the prison wardens.

BHRPC urges the people of the region to participate in the symbolic fast and demonstration of 5 November, 2011 in solidarity with Irom Sharmila and Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA campaign in demand of repeal of the Act and investigation of human rights violation allegations.

For more information contact:

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

M: 09401942234,

Email: wali.laskar@gmail.com

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Rongpur Part IV, Silchar-9,

Assam, India

BHRPC condemns attack on anti-AFSPA campaigners

October 20, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BHRPC Statement, October 20, 2011

 

BHRPC condemns attack on anti-AFSPA campaigners

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) is shocked at the reports of attack on the campaigners against the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and strongly condemns the incident and the anti-democratic fascist mindset displayed by the attackers on the peaceful protestors.

It is reported that when a large number of students mainly from the North East Indian states joined the Save Sharmila Solidarity Group at the north campus of Delhi University as a part of the Srinagar-to-Imphal Yatra demanding repeal of the AFSPA miscreants created nuisance at the rally pelting stones and tomatoes. Several students sustained injuries due to stone pelting.

It is also alleged that in spite of information provided, theDelhipolice arrived late in the scene and did not make any arrest of the alleged attackers but instead denied permission to hold the peaceful rally any further.

It is to be mentioned that the 4,500 km longSrinagar-to-ImphalYatra is being carried out to make common people aware of the draconian, anti-democratic and anti-human rights provisions of AFSPA applicable in the North Eastern states andJammu and Kashmir. The rally is being joined by several social activists of national fame such as Medha Patkar, Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movement leader Faisal Khan, Irom Sharmila’s brother Irom Singhajit and Parveena Ahangar of the Association of Disappeared Persons.

BHRPC believes that the attack is a blatant violation of, and an assault on, the basic fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly committed with tacit support of the police. The incident displays the discriminatory attitude, anti-democratic and fascist mindset of the authorities and a section of the people towards the North Eastern people. The AFSPA is the legislative embodiment of that attitude and mindset. Both the attitude and mindset, and the statute is dangerous for democracy, rule of law and human rights inIndia. They do not have a legitimate place in a democraticIndia.

BHRPC urges the authorities to take appropriate actions under the law against the alleged attackers and make arrangements for the protection of the human rights defenders campaigning against the AFSPA.

Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC)

Guwahati,Assam

20 October 2011

BHRPC hails Supreme Court order granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen

April 17, 2011

The Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally recognised human rights defender on 15 April after a prolonged hearing. Dr. Sen was serving life sentence meted out to him on 24 December 2010 along with two others. Dr. Sen was charged with sedition under sections 124A read with section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was also charged with working for outlawed Maoists under sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act), 2005 and section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 31 January 2011 wrote to the Prime Minister of India and other authorities including the Chief Justice of India urging them to release him and repeal these repressive laws.

BHRPC hails the order of the Supreme Court of India granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen made on 15 April 2011 and reiterates (See earlier statement) its demands for a thorough and objective inquiry into the alleged conspiracy to falsely book Dr. Sen in order to intimidate other human rights defenders and to repress voice of dissent. BHRPC also urges the authorities in India to immediately release all other human rights defenders who are put behind bars unjustly.

BHRPC further welcomes the statement of Union Minister for Law and Justice that laws of sedition need to be revisited and urges the government to repeal/amend all repressive laws including the infamous Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. BHRPC expresses its solidarity with Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur who has been fasting for more than a decade demanding repeal of the AFSPA.

Para-military forces run amock in Silchar with impunity

March 15, 2011

Assam Rifles personnel belonging to the 5th battalion camping at Jiribam, Manipur came to Silchar in Assam, a town known as the heart of Barak Valley, on 2 August, 2009, bought ‘pan’ from a panwala, pushed a pistol into the mouth of panawala who had shown the audacity of demanding money for his pan and then created a mayhem establishing the reign of terror for the whole night.

According to the reports, some ‘jawans’ in plain clothes belonging to the 5th battalion of Assam Rifles visited the College Road area in Silchar around 4pm on 2 August and kept loitering there for a few hours. They bought ‘pans’ from a ‘panshop’ owned by one Trinath Dhar of the same locality and started to go away without making payment for the ‘pans’. They got angry when the ‘panwala’ demanded money for his ‘pans’ and started to hurl abuses and threats at him. At further entreaties for the payment the ‘jawans’ beat him, tried to strangle him and one of the ‘jawans’ put his service pistol into the mouth of the ‘panwala’. When people gathered the ‘jawans’ went away but warned him that he would be dealt with appropriately later.

Around 10.30 pm that night 5 ‘jawans’ led by a major named R Gupta came back in a jeepsy car without number plate. They were in plain clothes. Most of the shops were closed at that time. They looked for Trinath Dhar, but his shop was also closed and he hid himself somewhere nearby. The ‘jawans’ entered a nearby saloon named ‘Ajoy Hair Cutting’, which was still open, and started to break things and to beat people inside the shop. The reports alleged that the ‘jawans’ hurled Sumon Sheel, a worker in the saloon, through the window into a drain several feet down. He sustained severe injuries.

According to the reports, at the hue and cry people of the locality started to gather at the spot and the ‘jawans’ kept beating indiscriminately whoever they could catch including women and rickshaw pullers creating a mayhem. They also allegedly opened fire. Ten persons including Ajoy Sheel, the owner of the saloon, Sumon Sheel, a worker in the saloon, Trinath Dhar, the panwala who came out from his hiding when people gathered and Rapon Bhattacharya of Subhash Nagar were injured.

At that time the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Headquarter, Cachar and the Officer-in-Charge of Silchar police station came to the spot with a large police force and brought the situation under control. The police took the ‘jawans’ including the major and the injured to the police station. The injured were sent to the hospital for treatment. But no First Information Report (FIR) was registered.

The Assam Rifles major told the media persons that they were in an ambush there and the local people attacked them even after the ‘jawans’ revealed their identity. He claimed that Assam Rifles personnel were acting in self defence. But there is no answer to the question why Assam Rifles did not inform the local police about their operation in a thick residential area which they are bound to do.

Members of the BHRPC visited the area next day (3 August) in order to find out the facts about the incident. They encountered with an eerie silence. Witnesses refused to talk. Victims were trying to avoid the team members. Fear and terror were visible in the eyes and faces of the people of the locality. After much persuasion and guarantee of protection of identity some victims and witnesses spoke out. Their accounts corroborated each and every facts stated above.

They added that they were asked not to speak with the media and human rights groups except that the matter was ‘settled amicably’ and that they had no grievances against the Assam Rifles personnel or Assam Police members. But the grievances were so acute and deep that one of them went on to say that ‘talks of human rights have meanings only in independent democratic countries’ and out of frustration he declared that ‘India is neither independent nor democratic in actual sense of the terms’. ‘If you try to fight for your rights legally they will kill you ‘legally’’, he claimed. He went on, ‘if you file a complaint with the police the investigation will be biased and at the end of the day the accused will not be prosecuted or if prosecuted will be acquitted for lack of evidence.’ According to him, this is the best expectable situation. At the worst you will be encountered, he claimed. According to him, it is a practice of the security forces to make terrorist of a person who dares to point his fingers against them by planting arms and ammunitions at his residence and then they will kill him in a staged encounter. ‘No human rights group will be able to save him’, he declared.

The statement said, BHRPC could not persuade the terrified victims to lodge a complaint with the police regarding the incident. It reveals their lack of trust in Indian justice delivery system, which is very dangerous.

One of leading local daily news paper carried the story of ‘mutual settlement’ on 4 August. The report informed that the matter was settled in a tripartite meeting among victims, Assam Rifles personnel and officials of Assam Police held at Silchar police station on 3 August. The news paper planted a new version of the incident completely contradicting what it told the day before. More over, it did not make any reference to the earlier story by way of refutation or corrigendum or whatever may be. The paper owes an explanation to its readers and the public. All other papers kept mum on the matter.

It shows a conspiracy of silence. BHRPC thinks that there are ample grounds to conclude prima facie that the Assam Rifles, Assam Police, local media and some other local elements are in collusion with each other to protection the accused ‘jawans’ from legal consequences. In effect, rights of the victims of crimes to justice, remedies and reparation are being denied.

BHRPC concludes that the incident and the subsequent efforts to hush it up amount to vaiolations of fundamental rights laid down in Artiles 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India. Article 21 guarantees right to life and personal liberty, which includes, inter alia, right to live with human dignity, right to physical and psychological integrity and right to justice, remedies and adequate reparation in case of violations of any fundamental rights. Article 14 guarantees equality before and law and equal protection of law. The officials of the Assam Police violated this right of victims by not registering an FIR and by not initiating prosecution against the accused personnel.

The actions of the Assam Rifles personnel and officials of Assam police also violated international human rights obligation of the State of India in respect of the right to life, security of persons and property, right to physical and psychological integrity and right to justice, remedies and adequate reparation in case of violations as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other instruments.

Release Dr. Binayak Sen, Protect HRDs and Repeal Repressive Laws

January 31, 2011

Press Statement

For immediate release

31 January, 2011, Silchar

Release Dr. Binayak Sen, Protect HRDs and Repeal Repressive Laws

Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 31 January 2011 wrote to the Prime Minister of India and other authorities including the Chief Justice of India to express its shock and deep concern at the incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally recognized physician, health worker and human rights defender. He has been convicted on 24 December 2010 along with two others and has been sentenced to imprisonment for life. Dr. Sen has been charged with sedition under sections 124A read with section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He has also been charged with working for outlawed Maoists under sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act), 2005 and section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.

Reports show that the trial was unfair and failed to meet the standard of criminal jurisprudence and human rights norms. It is seen that documents have been fabricated by the police and false witnesses introduced. The judgment suggests that the judge has ignored evidence provided by the defence and has relied on hearsay evidence of the prosecution. Guilt of Dr. Sen has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, which is a primary requirement for conviction.

BHRPC believes that Dr. Sen as been targeted maliciously for his peaceful and legitimate human rights works and criticism of the government policy that violates international human rights norms. His prosecution is malafide; in fact it is a persecution. He has been made an example of by the state as a warning to other human rights defenders not to expose human rights violations.

Dr. Sen, giving up great career opportunities, dedicated his life in providing health care to the poorest people in the remote villages in Chattishgarh without access to public medical care, where he founded a hospital and trained women to provide basic health care. He also served as an adviser to the state government’s public-health committee until May 2007, when he was arrested. As human rights defender holding the positions of national vice president and president of Chattishgarh Unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), a leading civil liberties organization in India, Dr. Sen documented numerous cases of gross human rights violations by the security forces and Salwa Judum, a private militia held to be sponsored by the Chattishgarh government in the name of fight against Maoists, an armed opposition group which also does not respect the rights of people.  Dr. Sen often raised his voice against the massacres of people by both the sides and appealed for dialogue and peace.

Human rights defenders like Dr. Sen provide services that should be provided by the government. They play a great role in upholding and fulfilling the constitutional mandates and establishment of the rule of law by documenting incidents of unlawful actions and atrocities of state agencies, offering legal advice and intervention and constructive criticisms of the wrong policies. They provide legitimate outlet for the grievances of the people. They are not the enemies but the friends of the state and people.

This has been recognised by the United Nations as well as by the government of India. The UN adopted a Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998 that provides for the support and protection of human rights defenders in the context of their work. The Indian parliament passed the Protection of Human Rights Act in 1993 that recognises the role of HRDs and mandates the National Human Rights Commission to support non-governmental organisations in their human rights work. But in reality people like Dr. Binayak Sen are persecuted and prosecuted under the same laws that were used by the British colonial rulers against people like Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

BHRPC believes that using repressive laws of colonial era against HRDs and innocent people and enacting new such laws empowering the law enforcement agencies to trample upon universally recognised human rights of the citizens is not the solution to the problem of unrest and insurgency. The rule of law, fundamental constitutional rights and universally recognised human rights must be upheld.

Many Indian laws meant to deal with insurgency and terrorism fall well short of the constitutional and human rights standards even keeping in consideration the derogation provided therein. Some of them have been struck down by the SC (for example, some provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985), some of them have been modified and their imports narrowed down (for example, section 124A of the IPC) and in cases of some others the SC provided additional guidelines to save them from unconstitutionality (for example, the National Security Act, 1980, the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 some special laws enacted by state legislatures including the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 etc.). The UN Human Rights Committee and other organs continue to recommend the Indian state to repeal or amend such laws in order to make them compatible with the international human rights standards. However, these laws are maliciously being used against HRDs increasingly in many states in India.

BHRPC understands and hopes that legal questions in the case of Dr. Sen will be addressed in the High Court and Supreme Court expeditiously. But there is no judicial avenues to undo the damage done particularly to the mental and physical health of Dr. Sen who is a 61 year old heart patient, his family and friends by putting him in this legal wrangle. Facing trial in India is itself a punishment and deterrent. Human rights works in India and country’s image in the world have been affected adversely by this trial. This unfair trial has also put the Indian judiciary and democracy on trial before the international community. Further damage must be stopped and it can be done by releasing Dr. Sen and providing him with adequate reparation and by bringing to book those who conspired to falsely implicate Dr. Sen, fabricated evidence, committed perjury and unduly influenced the judge.

BHRPC, therefore, urged the authorities to ensure that (1) Dr. Binayak Sen must be released immediately and his appeal must be disposed of as soon as possible;  (2) An independent inquiry must be instituted to find out those who conspired to falsely implicate Dr. Sen, fabricated evidence, committed perjury and unduly influenced the judge; (3) Dr. Sen and his family must be provided with adequate reparation; (4) Human rights defenders must be provided full protection and special professional privileges; (5) Repressive laws such as section 124A of the IPC, the Chattishgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955 etc. must be repealed or adequately amended and brought in conformity with the international human rights standards.


Neharul Ahmed Mazumder

Secretary General, BHRPC

Click here to download copy of the letter to Prime Minister

BHRPC hails Supreme Court order granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen

The Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally recognised human rights defender on 15 April after a prolonged hearing. Dr. Sen was serving life sentence meted out to him on 24 December 2010 along with two others. Dr. Sen was charged with sedition under sections 124A read with section 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. He was also charged with working for outlawed Maoists under sections 8(1), 8(2), 8(3) and 8(5) of the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam (Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act), 2005 and section 39(2) of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) on 31 January 2011 wrote to the Prime Minister of India and other authorities including the Chief Justice of India urging them to release him and repeal these repressive laws.

BHRPC hails the order of the Supreme Court of India granting bail to Dr. Binayak Sen made on 15 April 2011 and reiterates (See earlier statement) its demands for a thorough and objective inquiry into the alleged conspiracy to falsely book Dr. Sen in order to intimidate other human rights defenders and to repress voice of dissent. BHRPC also urges the authorities in India to immediately release all other human rights defenders who are put behind bars unjustly.

BHRPC further welcomes the statement of Union Minister for Law and Justice that laws of sedition need to be revisited and urges the government to repeal/amend all repressive laws including the infamous Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958. BHRPC expresses its solidarity with Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur who has been fasting for more than a decade demanding repeal of the AFSPA.


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