India : Abduction, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and judicial harassment of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar

30/09/2015
Urgent Appeal

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

The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) of the abduction of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar, a District Human Rights Monitor for MASUM in Murshidabad district (West Bengal, India). He is a renowned human rights defender who has investigated cases on human rights violations perpetrated by the police and Border Security Forces (BSF) personnel, and who has been instrumental in denouncing several other human rights violations in Murshidabad district.

According to the information received, on September 22, 2015 at 10.27 am, Mr. Sarkar was abducted in Sekhpara (West Bengal, India) by five to seven police officers from the Islampur police station who were not wearing their uniform. At the time of the incident, Mr. Sarkar was talking with victims of torture and their family members when, all of a sudden, the police officers arrived in a car and started beating and insulting him after which they lifted him, placed him inside the vehicle and took him away.

On September 23, 2015, at 1.38 pm, Mr. Sarkar was taken before the Additional District and Sessions Judge (2nd Court)[1] in Baharampur-Murshidabad and a criminal case was opened against him under Sections 376, 511, 323, 506 and 400 of the Indian Criminal Code and under Sections 8 and 12 of the Act for Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. During the arrest he was slapped, kicked and pounced on the chest as well as verbally abused. He was not permitted to have his medicine and he was not given food at night.

Furthermore he was obliged to walk barefoot and was brought before the Court in this condition. At 6.15 pm on the same day, a petition for bail was rejected and Mr. Sarkar was then transferred to the prison Baharampur Central Correctional Home. The next hearing is scheduled for October 7, 2015.

According to the same information, the police has been trying to silence Mr. Sarkar´s voice and that of MASUMs since they got involved in a criminal case lodged against the police personnel for the alleged killing of Mr. Rajib Molla at Raninagar police station.

MASUM has filed several complaints and has been regularly sharing information with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Regarding previous incidents with Mr. Sarkar and other MASUM members, the Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) at the NHRC called MASUM and informed them that they had taken up the case and sought report from the related police and civil administration, but up to this date no documents have been shared with MASUM and no appropriate action has been taken. The last complaint was made on September 2, 2015 regarding previous incidents, just before his arrest. On September 22, 2015, MASUM made a brief complaint with a request for urgent steps from the NHRC and contacted the Focal Point of NHRC on HRDs, but, at the time of publication of this urgent appeal, no actions have been taken to check the allegations of police abuse upon Mr. Sarkar.

The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time Mr. Sarkar is being intimidated, judicially harassed and ill-treated at the hands of the police (see background information).

The Observatory is deeply concerned for the allegations of ill-treatment and for the fact that Mr. Sarkar was not brought in front of a court within 24 hours from his arrest as required under the Constitution of India. The Observatory is also worried by the reports of a lack of due diligence displayed by the Indian National Human Rights Commission to follow up this case.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Sarkar, as well as the charges against him, which seem to be aimed at punishing him for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities, and calls on the Indian authorities to put an end to the ongoing and persistent attempts to criminalise members of MASUM in contravention of its international engagements regarding the protection of human rights defenders.

Background information :


On November 21, 2014, law enforcement agents from the Raninagar Police Station arrested Mr. Sarkar at his place of residence and subsequently transferred him to the ACJM Court, Lalbagh, on November 22. Mr. Sarkar was reportedly arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant for a previous pending criminal case under the Passport Act.

Case No. 364/2013, dated June 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 of 1967 (GR 1738/2013). On May 20, 2014, Mr. Sarkar filed an application before the ACJM Court, Lalbagh, expressing his concern that he had been falsely implicated in an unknown criminal case by the police and the BSF, and requesting more details about such case. However, until the arrest, Mr. Sarkar did not receive any information about the status of the said criminal case, neither did he receive any summons from the police nor the court.

According to the same information, Mr. Rana Mohanta, Mr. Sarkar’s defense counsel, reported that his client was assaulted, abused and mistreated by the police during his arrest as well as in custody. Upon hearing his testimony the Court ordered that Mr. Sarkar be released on bail and that he undergo a medical examination under supervision of the Inspector of the General Record Office (GRO) of the ACJM Court, Lalbagh. The Medical Officer of Lalbagh Sub Divisional hospital examined Mr. Sarkar and advised that he be admitted to hospital, suspecting that his ribs were fractured due to having been kicked and punched while in police custody.

On November 23, 2014, Mr. Sarkar’s son filed a complaint to the local Police Superintendent urging the police to carry out an investigation into the beatings his father had been subjected to while in police custody. However, to this date there is no information regarding an enquiry or investigation following the complaint.

Mr. Sarkar was admitted to Behrampore General Hospital on November 27, 2014, for medical treatment following the injuries suffered in custody, and on November 28, 2014, he was taken to Kolkata for advanced medical treatment. On November 29, 2014, he underwent Psychiatric counselling ; the medical report stated that he had several injuries such as a suspected fractured rib, as well as post traumatic stress, a feeling of humiliation, intense anxiety, fear and a feeling of sadness and helplessness. He suffered from insomnia and his doctors expressed their concern that the attack could have long-term effects on his psychological health. Mr. Sarkar went to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital for further treatment on December 3, 2014. To this date, Mr. Sarkar is still undergoing physiotherapy sessions.

The judicial harassment against Mr. Sarkar and other MASUM members is ongoing. Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar was previously implicated in Raninagar Police Station Case No. 354/2013 and Domkal Police Station Case No. 1243/2014. The cases are ongoing after a Criminal Revision at Calcutta High Court was filed for quashing the criminal case pending against Mr. Sarkar at Raninagar Police Station and another Criminal Revision was filed for quashing of the criminal case which is pending at Domkal Police Station, in which Mr. Sarkar and Mr. Kirity Roy, Secretary of MASUM, have been made accused.

Actions requested :
Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to :
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar as well as of all human rights defenders in India ;

ii. Release Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar immediately and unconditionally, since his detention is arbitrary as it only seems to be aimed at sanctioning his human rights activities ;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation into the abovementioned events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law ;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Ajimuddin Sarkar and all members of MASUM as well as against all human rights defenders in India so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances ;

v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially :

- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ; and
- Article 12.2, which provides that “"the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, 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 her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ; and

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.

Addresses :
· Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax : + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail : pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
· 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 Mal Lodha, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax : +91 11 233 83792, Email : supremecourt@nic.in
· Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi - 110023, India. Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email : covdnhrc@nic.in ; ionhrc@nic.in
· Mr. A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email : hrd-nhrc@nic.in
· 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 : cm@wb.gov.in
· H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax : +41 22 906 86 96, Email : mission.india@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax : +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

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

***

Geneva-Paris, September 30, 2015

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

The Observatory, a OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line :

E-mail : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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