Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest, judicial harassment and threats against Ms. Soni Sori, woman human rights defender and tribal activist, and members of her family. Ms. Sori fights for the land rights of indigenous population in the state of Chhattisgarh, which are affected by the conflict between Maoists and government security forces, and is committed to bring to justice high-ranking police officials from Bastar district, allegedly involved in a case of extra judicial killing.
According to the information received, on February 20, 2016, three unidentified men attacked Ms. Soni Sori while she was travelling home, and threw a chemical substance on her face, which resulted in severe burning and her hospitalisation. The attackers threatened to pursue their attacks on her daughter if she continued her work on the case of extra judicial killing in which several members of the police force are involved.
On March 10, 2016, at approximately 10.30 a.m., Mr. Ajay Markam,Ms. Soni Sori’s brother-in-law, was arbitrary arrested in his home in the district of Dantewada by the Jagdalpur police. In detention, the police officers and the Chief Superintendent interrogated him regarding the attack of February 20 on Ms. Soni Sori and threatened to charge him for organizing the assault. They released him in the morning of March 12. Previously on March 1 and 9, 2016, the police had already summoned him for questioning and during the interrogation the officers physically and verbally abused him.
On March 11, 2016, following the arrest of Mr. Ajay Markam, Ms. Soni Sori’s father as well as other members of her family went to the Inspector General of the Bastar Police to seek information about his situation and his whereabouts and share their concerns regarding his arbitrary detention. In response, the Inspector General threatened the family members to keep him in detention and claimed in addition that the whole family would face consequences for Ms. Soni Sori’s work in defence of human rights.
On the same day at 4 p.m., Ms. Dhani Markam,Ms. Soni Sori’s sister and Mr. Markam’s wife, was also arrested and detained for questioning at the same Jagdalpur police station as her husband. She was released later that same night, after having been verbally abused and threatened.
The Observatory firmly condemns the on-going harassment against Ms. Soni Sori and other members of her family, as it clearly aims at sanctioning her legitimate human rights activities and calls upon the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of harassment against her and her family, as well as against all human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory equally calls upon the Indian authorities to conduct a prompt, independent and thorough investigation on the aforementioned act of violence against Ms. Soni Sori in order to identify the genuine perpetrators.
Please write to the authorities of India asking them to:
i. Put an end to any form of harassment against Ms. Soni Sori, her family and all human rights defenders in India;
ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Soni Sori, her family, as well as of all human rights defenders in India;
iii. Conduct a prompt, independent and thorough investigation on the aforementioned act of violence against Ms. Soni Sori in order to identify the perpetrators, bring them before an independent, just and impartial tribunal and apply to them all the necessary administrative and/or criminal sanctions foreseen by law;
iv. Conform in any circumstances 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”;
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 his or her rights”;
v. 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email: email@example.com
Ms. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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, March 23, 2016
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, an 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 OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80