India: Temporary release on bail of Mr. Varavara Rao

23/02/2021
Urgent Appeal

New information
IND 005 / 0720 / OBS 079.1
Release on bail /
Judicial harassment
India
February 23, 2021

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 about the temporary release on bail of Mr. Varavara Rao, an 80-year-old human rights defender who was held in detention for two and a half years pending trial at Taloja jail, Mumbai, Maharashtra State [1].

On February 22, 2021, the Mumbai High Court granted bail for six months to Mr. Rao on medical grounds. He was released on a 50,000 Rupees (approximately 570 Euros) bail and on condition that he: remains in Mumbai, within the jurisdiction of the Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court; attends the court whenever he is summoned; surrenders his passport to the NIA; refrains from hampering the investigation; and does not speak to the media about his case. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Mr. Rao is undergoing treatment in the Nanavati Hospital, in Mumbai.

The Observatory recalls that Varavara Rao was arrested on November 17, 2018, for his alleged involvement in violence that broke out at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra State, on January 1, 2018. From November 2018, Mr. Rao’s health significantly deteriorated during his detention due to lack of adequate medical care. In July 2020, Varavara Rao tested positive for Covid-19 but was provided adequate medical care only afterhis family members organised a press conference and urged the government to transfer him to a hospital.

The Observatory welcomes the release on bail of Varavara Rao but calls for his unconditional and permanent release as his detention is only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory further condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Varavara Rao and all other human rights defenders detained in the same case, including: Mr. Stan Swamy, 83, who has been denied adequate care while in prison; Ms. SudhaBhardwaj; Mr. Vernon Gonsalves; Mr. Gautam Navlakha; Mr. Arun Ferreira; Mr. Sudhir Dhawale ; Mr. Rona Wilson; Ms. Shoma Sen; Mr. Anand Teltumbde; Mr. Mahesh Raut; and Mr. Surendra Gadling.

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. Varavara Rao, and give him unconditional access to the medical care he requires;

ii. Unconditionally and permanently release Mr. Varavara Raoand all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in India, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Varavara Raoand 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.

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. 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, February 23, 2021

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 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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