India: Arbitrary detention and judicial harrassment of ​Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Ms. Shoma Sen and Mr. Mahesh Raut

19/06/2018
Urgent Appeal

IND 006 / 0618 / OBS 086
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
India
June 19, 2018

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

Brief description of the information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Surendra Gadling, a Dalit human rights lawyer and the Secretary General of the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers, Mr. Rona Wilson, Public Relations Secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit human rights activist and editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohi, Ms. Shoma Sen, a Dalit and women’s rights defender and a member of the national network Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression,and Mr. Mahesh Raut, a land rights activist and convenerof the People’s Movement Against Displacement (Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan), in various parts of India. The five human rights defenders are all associated with various social movements and have a long history of working on human rights issues regarding Dalit and other marginalised communities. They have all also called for justice and accountability after the violence that had broken out in Bhima Koregaon,Maharashtra State, on January 1, 2018 [1].

According to the information received, at 6 am on June 6, 2018, the police simultaneously raided the houses of Mr. Surendra Gadling, Ms. Shoma Sen, and Mr. Mahesh Raut in Nagpur, Maharashtra State, and of Mr. Rona Wilson and Mr. Sudhir Dhavale in New Delhiand Mumbai respectively. They were all immediately arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) [2] and transferred to Shivaji Nagar police station in Pune where they were subsequently placed in police custody for a week on trumped up accusationsof spreading controversial pamphlets and delivering hate speeches in connection with violence that had broken out in Bhima Koregaon. On June 14, 2018, their pre-trial detention was extended until June 21, 2018, after the police claimed to have discovered letters that the five human rights defenders were plotting to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In addition, since their arrest, the human rights defenders have been portrayed as “Maoist operatives” by the media, as a further intent to stigmatize them.

The five human rights defenders are all associated with various social movements and have a long history of working on human rights issues regarding Dalit and other marginalised communities. They have all also called for justice and accountability after the violence in Bhima Koregaon.

Prior to their arrest, on April 17, 2018, the Pune police had raided and searched the residences of Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, and several other human rights defenders.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Ms. Shoma Sen, and Mr. Mahesh Raut, which seem aimed at hindering their peaceful and legitimate human rights work, in particular their work to ensure justice for the violence in Bhima Koregaon.

The Observatory is also concerned by the deterioration of Mr. Mahesh Raut’s health condition while in detention. Mr. Raut suffers from liver enlargement and ulcers.

The Observatory urges Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the above-mentioned human rights defenders, and to put an end to all acts of harassment against them, including at the judicial level.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Mahesh Raut, and all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Ms. Shoma Sen, and Mr. Mahesh Raut, as their detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Drop all charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Ms. Shoma Sen, and Mr. Mahesh Raut;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Rona Wilson, Mr. Sudhir Dhavale, Ms. Shoma Sen, and Mr. Mahesh Rautas well as against all human rights defenders in India, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1, and 12.2;

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

Addresses:

Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
Justice Dipak Misra,Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in
Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

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

***
Geneva-Paris, June 19, 2018

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

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

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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