India: Inhuman and degrading detention conditions of Mr. Stan Swamy

02/12/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
IND 006 / 1020 / OBS 113.1
Inhuman and degrading detention conditions /
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
India
December 2, 2020

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

New Information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the inhuman and degrading detention conditions of Mr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year-old Jesuit priest and prominent Adivasi (indigenous) rights activist in Jharkhand State.[1] Mr. Stan Swamy has been arbitrarily detained in Taloja jail since October 9, 2020.

According to information received, on November 26, 2020, the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Mumbai rejected Mr. Stan Swamy’s request for a straw, a sipper bottle and winter clothes, which had been allegedly confiscated by the NIA at the time of his arrest. During the hearing, the NIA falsely denied having confiscated Mr. Swamy’s items.

Mr. Swamy had lodged his request on November 6, 2020, as he is unable to hold a glass due to his advanced Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, Mr. Swamy suffers from a hearing impairment, fell in the jail on multiple occasions, and suffers from severe pain in his lower abdomen as a result of two surgeries.

On November 29, 2020, the Taloja jail authorities provided Mr. Swamy with a sipper bottle, following widespread outcry over the refusal to provide him with adequate medical care.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the health condition of Mr. Stan Swamy, which is likely to deteriorate in the overcrowded Taloja jail as a result of not receiving adequate care.His age and the fact that he is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease is also putting him at an increased vulnerability of contracting COVID-19.

The Observatory urges the Indian authorities to immediately allow Mr. Swamy’s access to the adequate medical attention he requires.

The Observatory further expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Stan Swamy, which seem to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory calls upon the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Stan Swamy, and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Background Information:

On October 8, 2020, Mr. Stan Swamy was arrested without any warrantby NIA officials at his residence in Ranchi, Jharkhand. On October 9, 2020, he was transported to Mumbai, Maharashtra State, where he was remanded in Taloja jail.

Mr. Swamy was arrested for his alleged involvement in the “Bhima Koregaon case”, in connection with caste-based violence that broke out during Elgar Parishad, a Dalit commemoration of the anniversary of a battle the Dalits won 200 years ago against the Peshwas (upper caste rulers), at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra State, on January 1, 2018.

The Observatory recalls that as many as 15 other prominent human rights defenders across the country, known for their human rights work on behalf of the most marginalized communities in India, have been detained in the Bhima Koregaon case under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Some of them have been detained since June 2018. The 15 are: Mr. Varavara Rao[2], Ms. Sudha Bhara dwaj, Mr. Vernon Gonsalves, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Mr. Arun Ferreira, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Mr. Rona Wilson, Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Anand Teltumbde, Mr. Mahesh Raut, Mr. Surendra Gadling, Mr. Hany Babu, Mr. Sagar Ghogare, Mr. Ramesh Gaichor, and Ms. Jyoti Jagtap. Their bail applications have systematically been rejected.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Stan Swamy, and give him immediate and unconditional access to the medical attention he requires;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Stan Swamyand all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in India, since their detention is arbitrary and seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Stan Swamyand all other human rights defenders in India, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;

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

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

Addresses:

· Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, Twitter: @narendramodi
· Mr. Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
· Mr. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
· Mr. Sharad Arvind Bobde, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court of India, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
· Mr. H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: chairnhrc@nic.in, Twitter: @India_NHRC
· Mr. C. S. Mawri, 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. Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

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

***
Geneva-Paris, December 2, 2020

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 OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39
Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18


[1] Fifteen years ago, Mr. Stan Swamy founded the Jesuit social research and training centre “Bagaicha” in Ranchi, Jharkhand, with which he has tirelessly worked against illegal land acquisitions and forced displacement of Adivasi communities, as well as discrimination and human rights violations against them.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal IND 005 / 0720 / OBS 079, published on July 16, 2020.

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