India: Arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of 13 women human rights defenders in Kolkata

17/06/2013
Press release

IND 003 / 0613 / OBS 051
Arbitrary arrest / Release /
Judicial harassment
India
June 17, 2013

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

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) about the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of 13 women human rights defenders, all members of Maitree, a Kolkata based women’s network, in West Bengal.

According to the information received, on June 13, 2013, at around 8.30 a.m., Ms. Anuradha Kapoor, Ms. Swapna, Ms. Kakoli Bhattacharya, Ms. Anchita Ghatak, Ms. Shyamali Das, Ms. Ratnaboli Roy, Ms. Sharmistha Dutta Gupta, Ms. Shreya Sanghari, Ms. Madhura Chakroborty, Ms. Shreya Chakroborty, Ms. Sudeshna Basu, Ms. Aditi Basu and another member of Maitree, assembled before the residence of the Chief Minister of the Government of West Bengal, Ms. Mamata Bannerjee, bearing a few placards in their hands and telling the police personnel guarding the residence of the Chief Minister that they wished to submit memoranda on recent incidents of gang rapes on two students at Barasat and Krishnaganj, Nadia, in West Bengal [1]. The activists were all arrested by the posted police authority without being provided with arrest memos, and whisked to Lalbazar (the headquarters of Kolata police force) Central Lock Up. They were later informed that they were arrested for violating Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (“arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences”).

When MASUM contacted the Lalbazar Central Lock Up at around 11.30 a.m. and asked for information on the arrestees, the attending police officer only said that “yes there (were) few women activists inside the lock up but other relevant information (was) with Kalighat police station”. MASUM then contacted the Kalighat police station and the assistant sub-inspector who was the duty officer at that time said that only the Officer in Charge could throw light on the arrest and subsequent detention, but he had gone to Arambagh and would be back only after an hour. At about 4.30 p.m., all 13 defenders were released on bond from Lalbazar. Charges against them remain pending and they will all have to appear before the Magistrate Court. During their detention, they did not have access to a lawyer, although lawyers were present and try to see them from 10 a.m. until their release.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment against the 13 above-mentioned members of Maitree, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning their peaceful women’s rights activities.

Actions requested:

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

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the 13 above-mentioned members of Maitree, including Ms. Anuradha Kapoor, Ms. Swapna, Ms. Kakoli Bhattacharya, Ms. Anchita Ghatak, Ms. Shyamali Das, Ms. Ratnaboli Roy, Ms. Sharmistha Dutta Gupta, Ms. Shreya Sanghari, Ms. Madhura Chakroborty, Ms. Shreya Chakroborty, Ms. Sudeshna Basu and Ms. Aditi Basu, as well as of all human rights defenders in India;

ii. Put an end to acts of any acts of harassment against them as well as against all human rights defenders in India;

iii. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its:

- Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

- Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”;

- 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 the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Ms. Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, Government of West Bengal, Writers’ Buildings, BBD Bagh, Kolkata - 1, Fax - +91 33 22145480, Email : cm@wb.gov.in, sechome@wb.gov.in

· Mr. Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857 E-mal: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

· Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979

· Justice Altamas Kabir, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Justice K. G. Balkrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Fax: +91 11 2334 0016 / 2338 4863, Email: covdnhrc@nic.in ; ionhrc@nic.in

· Mr. Shri A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· National Commission for Women, 4, Deen Dayal Upadhayaya Marg, New Delhi. Email: ncw@nic.in, complaintcell-new@nic.in

· Acting Chairman, West Bengal Human Rights Commission, Bhabani Bhaban, Alipur, Kolkata -27. Fax +91 33 24799633, Email: wbhrc@cal3.vsnl.net.in / wbhrc8@bsnl.in

· The Chairperson, West Bengal Women Commission, Jalasamped Bhawan (Ground floor & 10th floor), Block DF, Sector – 1, Salt Lake City, Kolkata. Email : wbcm@vsnl.net

· Governor, West Bengal, Raj Bhaban, Kolkata - 62, Phone: +91 33-2200 1641, Fax: +91 33 – 2200 2444 / 2200 1649, Email: secy-gov-wb@nic.in

· H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 (0)2 6489638 or +32 (0)2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of India in your respective countries.

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