Highlights Of Last Month – May 2021



India’s Covid anguish fuels calls to release rights activists from jail

Indian activists languish in jail despite soaring Covid rates

Natasha Narwal, co-founder of the student feminist group Pinjra Tod, was not granted bail in time to see her father before he died of COVID 19. Even when showing symptoms, Khalid Saifi, a founder of the activist group United Against Hate, was tested only after his lawyers raised the urgent need in court. Siddique Kappan, a journalist who had been travelling to report a rape case when he was charged under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) the draconian terrorism law, was handcuffed to his hospital bed. The impact of the pandemic on prisoners kept in jail on grounds many believe to be politically motivated is severe.

Most dissenters are held under UAPA which removes the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. With bail pleas repeatedly rebuffed, they face grim prospects. Kanchan Nanaware arrested under UAPA in 2014 for alleged involvement in a Maoist insurgency, died in prison this January at the age of 38, without ever being tried.

Guardian Financial Times

India: Chronology of harassment against human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj

Human Rights defender Hany Babu denied medical treatment in Tajola jail; tests positive for Covid 19

Sudha Bharadwaj, aged 59, a human rights lawyer and activist for the rights of workers and indigenous people was arrested in 2018 under UAPA. Concerns about UAPA have been raised by several UN Special Rapporteurs, including the transfer of broad powers to the executive, and its use to conflate human rights activities and non-violent criticism of state policies with terrorist activities. Sudha Bharadwaj continues to be in jail during the pandemic despite her age, and several comorbidities – diabetes, hypertension, TB as well as the heart ailment she developed while in prison.

Hany Babu, an academic and campaigner for the rights of Dalit and marginalized communities was booked under UAPA in the Bhima Koregan case. Despite a severe eye infection which threatened damage to his vital organs, it took more than a week to obtain necessary medical treatment. Prisons in India are over-crowded. Families like his are denied access and information on the health and fate of loved ones. Despite the pandemic, treatment, vaccines and test results are delayed and/or denied.

CIVICUS , a global alliance of civil society organisations Front Line Defenders, an International Human Rights Organization

EU: Prioritize rights at India Summit

Detention of minority-rights advocates in India

At the EU-India Summit on 8th May 2021, Europe must offer support to India during the pandemic, but also press for the immediate release of all human rights defenders and critics in keeping with calls from the United Nations Office of the HighCommissioner for Human Rights for countries to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views” to prevent the growing rates of infection everywhere, including in prisons. The EU’s long silence on India’s human rights violations because of its focus on trade and economic ties with India must end.

The American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo expresses deep concern about the continued pretrial detention of minority-rights advocates in the Bhima Koregaon case in India. As many of the accused are over the age of 65 and have serious medical conditions, these activists are at high risk for contracting COVID-19. The ABA respectfully appeals to the Indian courts to end their prolonged pre trial detention.

8 International human rights organizations American Bar Association