India: Release on bail on humanitarian grounds of Ms. Safoora Zargar

23/06/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
IND 004 / 0520 / OBS 059.1
Release on bail / Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detention
India
June 23, 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 release on bail on humanitarian grounds of Ms. Safoora Zargar, a Master of Philosophy student at Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi and a member of the media wing of the Jamia Coordination Committee [1].

According to the information received, on June 23, 2020, the Delhi High Court granted bail to Ms. Safoora Zargar, after the Delhi police stated that they had no objection to her release on humanitarian grounds. Ms. Zargar was released on a 10,000 INR (around 120 EUR) bail on the conditions that she should not be involved in activities she is being investigated for; refrain from hampering the investigation; remain in Delhi and contact the Investigating Office every 15 days through a phone call.

Ms. Zargar, who is 23 weeks pregnant, has been under detention since April 10, 2020, in relation to her participation in peaceful protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) [2]. She is expected to be released of from Delhi’s Tihar Jail on June 24.

The Observatory welcomes today’s order to release Ms. Safoora Zargar on bail, but recalls that she should never have been detained, as her detention only aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory further condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Safoora Zargar and many other human rights defenders in India, in particular in relation to peaceful protests against and opposition to the CAA, and recalls that dozens of them currently remain detained in that context [3], including Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Meeran Haider, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Asif IqbalAkhil Gogoi [4], Dr. Khafeel Khan, Mr. Sharjeel Imam [5], Mr. Khalid Saifi and Ms. Ishrat Jehan.
 
Background information:

On April 10, 2020, Ms. Safoora Zargar was arrested at her residence by a dozen police officers in relation to the February 22-23, 2020 sit-in protest against the CAA at the Jaffrabad metro station in Delhi and brought to the Special Cell Police Station, where she was subsequently informed that she was arrested under Jaffrabad Police Station First Investigation Report (FIR) 48/2020. She was interrogated overnight by seven-eight male police officers. Ms. Zargar was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her arrest.
 
On April 11, Ms. Zargar was remanded in police custody for two days by the Metropolitan Magistrate and, on April 13, was granted bail in FIR No 48/2020. However, she was immediately re-arrested under the Special Cell Police Station FIR No. 59/2020 and placed under another two days of police custody.

On April 15, 2020, she was brought to Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where she was placed in solitary confinement for almost two weeks, despite her pregnancy.

At the time of her arrest, FIR No. 59/2020 only made reference to charges under Sections 147 (“rioting"), 148 (“rioting armed with deadly weapon"), and 149 (“unlawful assembly”), read with 120B (“criminal conspiracy”) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which are bailable offences punishable with less than seven years of imprisonment and do not require remand, as per Indian Supreme Court’s guidelines. On April 20, 2020, offences under Sections 124A, 153A, 186, 353, 212, 295, 427, 436, 452, 454 read with Section 34 of the IPC, along with Sections 3 & 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP), Sections 25 & 27 of the Arms Act, and Sections 13, 16, 17, and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967, were added to FIR No. 59/2020.

On June 4, 2020, Additional Sessions Judge, Patiala House Courts, rejected Ms. Zargar’s bail application, which she challenged before the Delhi High Court.
 
Actions requested:
 
Please write to the authorities of India to urge them to:
 
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Meeran Haider, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Ms. Safoora Zargar, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Mr. Akhil Gogoi, Dr. Khafeel Khan, Ms. Kawalpreet Kaur, Mr. Umar Khalid, Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Khalid Saifi, and Ms. Ishrat Jehan, as well as all other human rights defenders in India;
 
ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Meeran Haider, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Mr. Akhil Gogoi, Dr. Khafeel Khan, Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Khalid Saifi, and Ms. Ishrat Jehan, as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country;
 
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Devangana Kalita, Ms. Natasha Narwal, Mr. Meeran Haider, Ms. Gulfisha Fatima, Ms. Safoora Zargar, Mr. Shifa-ur-Rehman, Mr. Asif Iqbal, Mr. Akhil Gogoi, Dr. Khafeel Khan, Ms. Kawalpreet Kaur, Mr. Umar Khalid, Mr. Sharjeel Imam, Mr. Khalid Saifi, and Ms. Ishrat Jehan and 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. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6, 8, 11 and 12.2;
 
v. 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. 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: jscpg-mha@nic.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. Debindra Kundra, 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, June 23, 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 intervene 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 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

[1] The Jamia Co-ordination Committee is a group that was formed in December 2019 and comprises students on the Jamia Millia Islamia University campus and other organisations who are opposed to the CAA.
[2] The CAA grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who had entered India by December 31, 2014, and if they have lived in India for six years. It violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality. This also implies that individuals with religious affiliations outside of the six named above, including Muslims, will not be eligible for a citizenship under the conditions of the CAA.
[3] For more information, see Observatory Urgent Appeal ​IND 004 / 0520 / OBS 059, published on May 29, 2020.
[4] See Observatory Urgent Appeal ​IND 002 / 0320 / OBS 019, published on March 6, 2020.
[5] See India: Joint Open Letter To The Indian Government Calling For The Release Of Human Rights Defenders At Risk, May 26, 2020.

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