S.O.S – eVoice For Justice – e-news weekly
Spreading the light of humanity & freedom
Editor: Nagaraj.M.R.. vol.6.issue.52. …25/12/2010
home page : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/naghrw ,
WIKI LEAKS – Uncensored TRUTH
Editorial : REPEAL ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT in Manipur – An Appeal to H.E.Honourable President of India
I am writing to express solidarity to the ten-year-long fast of Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady of Manipur and her cause.
I am informed that Sharmila has started the fast on 5 November 2000, protesting against the violence committed by state and non-state actors in Manipur. I am aware that the protest also demands an immediate end of impunity in the state, for which the withdrawal of the martial law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), from Manipur is a prerequisite.
I am worried about the sufferings of the ordinary people of Manipur at the hands of the underground militant organisations as well as the state agencies.
I am aware that the AFSPA is enforced in Manipur to support government actions in the state in countering secessionist activities and underground militant acts. Yet, it is now certain that the AFSPA has not helped in countering militancy in Manipur, but in fact has enraged it.
I am informed that the climate of impunity is one of the reasons why conflict continues in Manipur.
The AFSPA, as far I understand is an addition to the overall impunity framework that has contributed to the deterioration of the state of rule of law in Manipur. My opinion is also shared by national bodies including Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee; the Second Administrative Reforms Commission; and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir. I am informed that these eminent bodies have recommended the government to withdraw AFSPA from operation since they are of the informed opinion that a law like the AFSPA will only facilitate violence and not prevent it.
I am convinced that under the current circumstances in Manipur the withdrawal of AFSPA will not in itself solve the Manipur crisis.
Yet, it could be a bold and open step by the government to show that it is determined to find solution to an armed conflict that has haunted an entire generation in the state. The withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur will be recognition to the sufferings of the state’s people and an expression of respect and acknowledgment of their rights.
Additionally, withdrawing AFSPA from Manipur will be a catalyst to end the climate of impunity in the state. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.
Your’s sincerely ,
Persecuted IROM SHARMILA of Puttaparthi Andhra Pradesh – – LAND MAFIA silencing an Innocent woman in Puttaparthi Andhra Pradesh
– LOCAL POLICE & JUDICIARY hand in gloves with the mafia – An appeal to Honourable supreme court of India
Land mafia with the support of local police are harassing an innocent woman by name Ms.Pushpa & her family in Puttaparthi , Andhra Pradesh. Ms.Pushpa & her family are living under threat to their lives , the approach road to their house is partly closed , they have suffered attempts of murder on their lives by police & rowdy elements , police have illegally entered her house & illegally confiscated her property. All for the reason that THEY REFUSED TO SELL THEIR PROPERTY TO THE NEIGHBOURING BUILDER (WHO IS AN INFLUENTIAL POLITICIAN) WHO IS ILLEGALLY BUILDING A HUGE COMPLEX . On top of this , the police have foisted false cases on Ms.Pushpa to silence her , circulated pamphlets , fake stories in the local media defaming Ms.pushpa & her family , offending the dignity of a woman .
The local Judiciary has failed to stop further injustices to this lady & failed to take legal action against public servants who failed to do their duty . These public servants – local police , local judiciary , PUDA officials , Jail officials , Government Doctor together with the complainant Ms.Pushpa must be subjected to narco analysis test. Till date Unauthorised construction by neighbouring builder (taking away the acess to Ms.Pushpa & her family’s property) is going on unhindered.
Ms.Pushpa presently an under trial in district jail , Ananthpur (admitted at Governement Hospital Ananthapur) IS UNDER FAST UNTO DEATH protesting against the inaction of Local Judiciary & Police , which is aiding the criminals to continue their crimes. If Ms.Pushpa & any of her family member dies , suffers bodily injuries , etc , the Local Jurisdictional Police , Jurisdictional Magistrate together with the Superintendent of police , District Collector & Principal District & Sessions Judge of the said Ananthapur District , Andhra Pradesh will be responsible for it.
On 09.12.2010 mid night Ms. Pushpa Under trial Patient at Jail Ward of Ananthapur District Hospital , Andhra Pradesh , faced threats from some police personnel themselves. The Police claimed that they are moving her to other higher medical hospital . Did the police had written orders from Higher police officers to move her that too at wee hours ? No. Did the police had the written discharge certificate from the concerned government doctor ? No. Did the police had written permission from the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate Court to move her? No. Even the police themselves didn’t not know where they are taking her. All this proves that the police personnel were acting illegally under the behest of some outside criminal elements. Inspite of appeals for JUSTICE & PROTECTION to Under Trial Ms.Pushpa (who is on Hunger Strike) , Nobody, no public servant has cared , even if the public servants neglect their duties they get all 5 star pay & perks at tax payer’s expense. SHAME SHAME to them.
Hereby , we do request the Honourable Supreme court of India , to conduct a thorough enquiry by a third party not belonging to Andhra Pradesh , to find the truth & give justice to the aggrieved.
JUDICIAL ATROCITY AGAINST AN INNOCENT WOMAN
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 2010 08:16:50 +0530
Subject: Sir..I need your kind attention immediately as iam in need..urgent..
humbly..Iam miss.Pushpa.Kolasani resident of puttaparthi,Anantapur Dist.AP. a law graduate but engased in to computer animation bussiness..problem is
I am on hunger strike for last 37 days demanding for judicial enquiry on magistrate who has given me for illegal judicial remand in a falsly implicated case against me by the police.Anantapur in Cr.No.50/10, U/s.353C.P.Cto bend me for compromise in S.C.No.13/08, S.C.No.367/05 ,pending in the court of Asst.Sessions Judge.Penukonda, C.C.S.R.02/09, pending in the court of JFCM.Penukonda and few other related cases linked with them in which police or directly involved and now they are at trail stage but they have even influenced my legal councel also..now I am permited to take the procecution side party in person in the place of PP and Spl.PP who were appointed earlier in them who made me arrested exactly one year before same like this though my recall petition was pending before the bench IN COUNTER CASES..now again it has been repeated thats why i have started hunger strike since then to put an end for their dramma once for all..i have sent a petition to the NHRC and the Chief Justice of High Court.AP but of no use at all..now I am under the treatment of Govt.General Hospital.Anantapur..police are forcing them too to not to issue any copyies of my medical reports to submit to the court..as i am taking a risk of sending this mail to you with the help of hospital staff only..may not e all the times possible..so i shall engage my sister Mrs.S.Ch.Padma to contact you over phone in this regard on behalf of me..i need your guidence and timely help..at any cost Iam not ready to let them go free..in this 3 magistrates and even GJ of anantapur is also involved now..i am ready to put forth all the clear and documentary evidence to prove their faults..my sisters phone Nos are…09441552129, 09441111772..pls o respond immediately..
thank you sir,
INDIA: Use of torture to extract confession, anyone surprised?
The latest news by the WikiLeaks claims that India has systematically used torture to extract confessions and has allowed its armed forces to resort to brutal human rights abuses like extrajudicial executions and disappearances to instil fear, and thus control the population in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The report asserts that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was concerned about New Delhi’s despicable tolerance of the issue and that the government practically did nothing to prevent torture and has consistently condoned it. The lack of action by the government and the impossibility of the government soldiers to be investigated or punished for engaging in torture has contributed in no less terms towards the alarmingly high number of extrajudicial executions and disappearances in that state, the leaked wires claim.
Torture, extrajudicial execution and disappearances are no news to Indians though. The diplomatic wires leaked by the WikiLeaks and the sudden news value it has attained in India and abroad is similar to someone expressing surprise after hearing that the earth’s shape is very close to that of an oblate spheroid and not a perfect sphere. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), AHRC’s national partners, as well as other civil society groups in the country and aboard have been contenting for years, with sufficient proof, that the practice of torture and encounter killings – a euphemism for extrajudicial executions in India – is consistent and widespread in the country. During the past six decades, the practice of torture and the number of encounter killings have only increased steadily and it never showed a tendency to decrease.
The AHRC has analysed this issue, and has been arguing that torture is used as a tool for social control in India. The AHRC has contented that similar is the state of affairs in other South Asian states like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In fact more than 80 percent of AHRC’s human rights interventions on its engagement in South Asia is against torture, all of which is available at http://humanrights.asia The AHRC has consistently argued that the widespread use of torture in the region is the result of the failed domestic institutions, in particular, the police, prosecution and the judiciary and hence is the central deficit in realising human rights in the region. The AHRC has been drawing the attention of national governments as well as that of the international human rights community to this issue, and has been consistently urging the international community in particular, to work with the national governments and the civil society in the region to address this perennial issue, without which there can be no visible improvement to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights in the region.
Concerning India, the AHRC has reported, in the past six years, more than 500 cases with meticulously documented details, including names, dates, places and even affidavits of victims of torture. Each of these cases, reported through the Urgent Appeals programme of the AHRC, has been reported to the Government of India, the respective state governments and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture calling for an immediate intervention and necessary action. The AHRC has reported when the elected representatives and the law enforcement officers in the country have publically stated that they believe in torture as an effective and necessary tool for crime investigation. The national media has reported at least a dozen incidents in the past 36 months where uniformed police officers where documented torturing suspects in full public view. The AHRC has consistently argued with evidence, that today torture in India is not a mere tool for crime investigation, but it is more often used for extracting bribes, that it promotes corruption, is used for silencing political dissent and to instil fear in the population. The AHRC has argued with proof that torture is most often used against the poor and members of the minority communities. The Supreme Court of India, over the years and on several occasions, has held that the practice of torture is widespread in India and the Court has repeatedly ordered the government to take remedial actions to contain it. The National Human Rights Commission and the short-lived National Police Commission has recommended the Government of India that unless the police is trained and equipped to discharge their responsibilities, that meets the operative standards of a civilian service in a democratic state, the police will continue to use torture as a crude tool to meet their ends. Yet, the government of India has done nothing to address the issue so far.
The farcical approach of the Government of India concerning this serious issue that has made disastrous dents upon the very notion of democracy in the country is evident from the 242-worded law that it passed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament – the Lok Sabha – this year and claimed it to be the law that would suffice the need of the time and will enable the country to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and is thereby equipped to end torture in India. The AHRC’s analysis of the issue is now available in its most recent issue of Article 2, which is available here.
In states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa, where the national government as well as the state administrations are engaged in countering modern India’s product to the region – the Naxalites – resulting out of the despicable neglect of the needs of its rural population, the police as well as state sponsored private militia like the Salwa Judum, are engaged in widespread use of torture with impunity. Conditions in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir is the several folds multiplied effect of the same nemesis, where the Indian armed forces, armoured with the statutory immunity provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 is in operation. It defies commonsense and insults intellect to expect a government that has done practically nothing to prevent torture in rest of the country where it has to fight no armed insurgents, not to allow its armed units stationed in Manipur or Jammu and Kashmir to practice torture or murder civilians.
Those who are from these states, including human rights defenders who have dared to speak against the government, have faced the wrath of the Indian administration. Internationally acclaimed human rights defender and lawyer, Mr. Parvez Imroz, from Jammu and Kashmir is yet to be allowed to travel outside India, since the government has denied him a passport. Human rights defenders in Manipur are afraid that they would be arrested, tortured and even murdered at the behest of the central government or the absolutely corrupt state administration, should they dare to speak about torture or about state-sponsored murders. Environmental activist and human rights defender, Mr. Jiten Yumnam, in Manipur was arrested last year and charged with a fabricated case registered under the non-bailable provisions of the draconian National Security Act, 1980 only because he has been vocal against corruption within the Manipur state administration. Jiten was arrested from Imphal airport, while he was preparing to travel to New Zealand to participate in an international human rights consultation.
Yet, in response to the WikiLeaks news, the government of India has officially responded that torture in India is its internal affair. The government spokesperson has claimed that the government views the news as not serious enough to make a detailed response. Indeed this is expected. It is the same response of the government whenever it is questioned about yet another brutal form of human rights violation practiced in India, caste-based discrimination. What the government fails to admit is that discrimination has never been an internal affair of India, though India still has a caste-enslaved population estimated to constitute 20 percent of the country’s population, unable to free from this brutal social and structural evil. Neither are torture or extrajudicial executions, issues remote and irrelevant, to remain as a miniscule family feud between Indians. These are crimes having universal jurisdiction, that today, the rest of the world consider these crimes as crimes against humanity.
If the arguments advanced by the government of India are to be accepted, by condoning apartheid, India was interfering in South Africa’s internal affairs and thereby breaching international law. India could also be held responsible for violating state sovereignty and international law for participating in the UN intervention in Rwanda. Lt. General Shiva Kumar, the third and the last Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda could be then held for leading an international invasion of Rwanda.
A government that condones caste based discrimination, or torture or extrajudicial executions disserve only contempt. Any government that obstructs the punishment and prevention calls for global humiliation. Its leaders can be prosecuted and punished if they travel to civilised jurisdictions.
Or is it that the government of India believes that Indians are not human. Conversely, is it that the government of India that is inhuman?
INDIA: Can there be a partially honest judiciary?
The simmering debate between three senior judges in India, involving the suspect in a criminal case and a former Union Minister from Tamilnadu state, Mr. A. Raja, and his alleged attempt to influence the court to obtain bail for the suspect with the assistance of the former Chairperson of the Tamilnadu and Pondicherry Bar Council, Mr. R. K. Chandramohan, has once again brought the lingering question of judicial independence and accountability in the country into the forefront of national debates. Of the three judges involved in the debate, one is a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Justice H. L. Gokhale, the other is the former Chief Justice of India who is now the current Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission and the third judge is a former judge of the Madras High Court, Justice Regupathi. Chandramohan, the lawyer involved in the case has been temporarily suspended from practice and from the powerful post he occupied at the Bar Council, as it’s Chairperson.
Four central questions that should be addressed and clarified in this issue are:
(1) Why did the courts — the Madras High Court, when one of its judges were approached in his chamber, by none other than the Chairperson of the State Bar Council intervening criminally in the judicial process, and the Supreme Court of India, when its Chief Justice was addressed by the Chief Justice of Madras High Court at the request of the judge who was approached by the lawyer — fail to immediately take actions against the bail petitioner, the lawyer and the minister?
(2) What prevented Justice Regupathi from initiating criminal proceedings against the lawyer, the accused and the minister when they tried to interfere with the court proceedings? The judge was empowered to do so. The courts in India have done it on several occasions in the past. The Indian courts have even misused the contempt of court proceedings often when the judges faced public criticism. Most of these cases involved, in lay language, ‘small fries’. But in this case, which involved a powerful lawyer and a minister in the Union Cabinet, the judge appeared to be seeking consensus from his senior colleagues. One cannot be blamed if it is said that in cases involving powerful persons the court hesitates to act.
(3) What prompted the minister or his lawyer to engage in this otherwise audacious attempt of illegally approaching a High Court Judge to decide a case in favour of a particular person? Is it a practice that in this instance got exposed? It is difficult to believe that any lawyer worthy of his salt will dare to do such a task, risking his career. In this case, the lawyer involved is not a novice. He is the Chairperson of the State Bar Council.
(4) Why did not the State Bar Council take action when the judge himself first exposed the case, by his remarks in open court? The Bar Council is a statutory body empowered to take disciplinary actions against lawyers for misconduct. How did such a person become the Chairperson of the Bar Council? Is this the standard of the Bar Council? Now that the case has been exposed, what action has been taken to find the truth behind the matter other than the suspension of the lawyer from the Bar? Why no enquiry is initiated into the case?
Indeed these are some of the many questions that anyone could ask, coming to know the details about the case. Unfortunately, it is a sad irony in India that none in the country would dare to ask such questions, since that could amount to contempt, the way this miserably misused law is practiced in India.
The case not only casts shadow upon a former Union Minister or a retired Chief Justice or other judges in the country. The incident is one more indicator to the fact that it is time to seriously consider looking into the state of affairs within the Indian justice system. The country’s judges must know that accountability, transparency and honesty are virtues that they can afford to insist upon the rest of the world only if they practice it among themselves.
The judiciary, irrespective of the geopolitical and legislative environment in which it works, has an inherent problem. It is the very notion of justice. In that, there cannot be a ‘partially honest’ judiciary. The nature of the institution demands absoluteness. It can be only either completely open, transparent and honest or absolutely dishonest. Justice cannot be 80 percent honest.
Those judges in India, who claim that 20 percent of their colleagues are dishonest, also have the responsibility to disclose the names and details of those judges who are corrupt, so that the litigants and lawyers can avoid such judges. There can never be percentages of honesty and dishonesty awarded to justice. Sadly, in India, it is so. Even worse is the fact that many in the country feel contented about the so-called 80 percent honest judges and thus about the judiciary as an institution. Any comments against it, other than from judges of the Supreme Court, warrants immediate contempt of court action.
This leads to the following additional questions. Can India continue to afford to have a judiciary that house judges having their names tainted with corruption? How long can the Supreme Court afford to have judges who will be transferred to High Courts in Sikkim or Guwahati, whenever their names and credential starts appearing in every place where a judge or his name should not be mentioned? How long can the Indian judiciary expect the people in Assam, Sikkim and Manipur to face the burden of having some of the tainted names in the country’s justice system?
What would have been the approach of the higher judiciary, had the judges involved are from the lower courts, like a Magistrate or a Munsiff? Would the Supreme Court or the High Court allow a retired lower court judge to make such remarks like those made by the senior judges in this case? If not, what additional rights do these senior judges have than their colleagues in the lower courts?
Last but not least, how long can India continue to have this mess, what Indians today call as their judiciary?
INDIA: 10 questions to Chidambaram on Manipur
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appreciates the effort taken by the Home Minister of India in undertaking a visit to Manipur. Manipur is one of the states in India with a poor human rights record. During the past three years the number of encounter killings reported from the state has steadily increased, until the state administration faced severe criticism for the public execution of two persons on July 23, 2009 by the state police. Mr. P. Chidambaram and a team of officers from the Union Home Ministry are visiting Manipur today and tomorrow.
The Home Minister is known to be having a professional as well as no-nonsense approach in work. Many in India hold him at a high esteem, referring to the Minister as a person who assesses officers and institutions under his command on the basis of their performance. Based on these references, the AHRC wishes to place before the Home Minister the following questions, so that the Minister will be able to help the state administration and the people of Manipur in finding a sensible solution to the six decade long internal conflict in that state.
1. Can the state administration account for the money that it has spent in the past five years for countering insurgent activities in the state? Can it provide the exact details as to who was paid what amount? It is not required for the state government to publically account every single Rupee of the tax money that it has spent on countering insurgency. But it must be able to produce records to the satisfaction of the Union Home Ministry for at least those expenses, where the spending was Rs. 200,000 or above in a single payment.
The AHRC appreciates the value and sensitivity of ‘human.int.’ in counter insurgency work. Yet, the state administration must be able to account to the Union Home Ministry that supports the release of such ‘Central Funds’ to state government.
2. What training was provided to the Manipur State Police and its State Police Commando Unit in the past two years to deal with insurgency? Does it meet the requirements of training offered to a civilian police force that is to undertake counter insurgency activities respecting the rule of law? How many police officers have received such training?
3. What is the process of recruitment to the state police in Manipur? What is the guarantee that the candidates selected for training and appointment in the state police are not selected on the basis of bribes paid to the Chief Minister or to his party’s MLAs?
The AHRC has credible information that to secure appointment as a Trainee Sub-Inspector in Manipur, a candidate is required to pay Rs. 1,400,000 to Rs. 1,800,000 as bribe to the Chief Minister or to a designated MLA as of 2010. The AHRC is informed that the officers upon appointment, realises through various means from the public the bribe they have paid to secure a job in the state police service. The AHRC also has credible information that in the process police officers are engaged in extortion, conniving with some of the criminal elements that are also listed in the prohibited organisations’ list by the Union Government. It is reported that such widespread corruption is one of the important reasons for a high number of encounter killings and unabated criminal extortion in the state.
4. How many police officers have been investigated in the past three years for crimes alleged to have committed by them, in particular torture and criminal extortion? If any such investigation has been conducted, who has been prosecuted?
If not why?
5. How many instances of encounter killing — other than the July 23 incident — have been investigated in the past three years in Manipur? What prevents the state from complying the recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission concerning encounter killing? If the state administration has conducted such investigations, why is that the reports not sent to the Commission?
6. Why is that most cases of encounter killing show the same pattern?
Most of the cases of encounter killing documented by human rights organisations in Manipur, shows the following pattern: a person is arrested by unidentified police commandos who are often accompanied by officers from a para-military unit or from a military detachment stationed in the state; the arrested person is detained in custody illegally, often for days; later the person found dead at a distant place; the state police immediately release a press note saying that the person was shot dead in an armed encounter; weapons (mostly 0.9 mm pistols, grenades, live cartridges) are shown as recovered from the deceased insurgent.
It would be interesting for the Union Home Ministry to verify how many such recovered/seized articles are produced in courts as material objects recovered from armed insurgents. How many of such recovered materials are kept in police custody? Do they all have separate identification marks? Does the articles and their number tally with the statements issued by the state police in each case? Does the state police have any such accounting system? If so, will the state police dare to make the list public? If not why?
Will the Home Ministry be willing to undertake an impartial accounting of recovered articles? The AHRC is willing to collaborate in such a process with the Union as well as State administration.
In 2009, between January and November, the state police have reported 272 executions, which was publically admitted by Mr. Joykumar Singh, the current Director General of Police. In most of the cases, the above pattern has been noted.
This proves two things. One, it defies logic. Further it could also suggest that the state police are ill equipped and ill prepared that many persons they arrest escape from their custody. Or, it has to be assumed that the state police is well informed that at least 24 times each month in 2009, the state police were able to intercept and engage an armed insurgent invariably resulting in the murder of the armed insurgent. If the latter were the case, there must be no more armed insurgents operating openly in the state, or the insurgents are so naïve that they always expose their armed presence to the state police. None of these would satisfy commonsense or the acumen of a lawyer, which Mr. Chidambaram is.
7. Will the state administration put an end to the illegal tax collection of some of the armed insurgent groups in Manipur? It is common knowledge that in Manipur many armed insurgent groups prohibited by the Union Government have setup illegal tax collection (criminal extortion) counters adjacent to police check posts on public roads. Every person, particularly drivers in Manipur know this or are their victims. Why have the state police not stopped it? Or are they hand-in-glove with the insurgents? Or is it the police themselves posing as insurgents?
The Home Minister must know that today in Manipur, it is hard to distinguish between an insurgent and a police officer. Both kills with impunity, extorts money by force from the people and are unaccountable to everything under the sun. Can the Home Minister contribute to change this situation?
8. What plans has the state administration made and executed to regain the confidence of the public? At the moment, Manipur is like a volcano that could erupt anytime. Has the state administration taken the effort to make public its public confidence building plans if they have any? If not, what prevented them in doing so?
9. Will the Home Minister meet Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila? Reports from India inform that the Home Minister will meet human rights activists in Imphal. Does the Home Minister see Sharmila as a threat to the peace of Manipur or a unifying factor to its fragile social fabric?
10. Will the Home Minister make a public report about his visit to Manipur? The public need not know the nuances of the state’s security scenario. But every Indian, especially each person in Manipur has a right to know what is their future in terms of their safety and security. Today they have only stories of fear and anger to say about their Chief Minister and the administration he leads. Can the Union Home Minister bring a difference?
If not what hope does Manipuries have of being part of the world’s largest democracy?
INDIA: The banality of it all and the inability to mourn
The allegations of corruption involving a former Union Minister, some corporate entities, the judges of the Madras High Court and the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India reported by the national media this week, in essence, indicates the state of affairs of the rule of law institutions in the world’s largest democracy. In addition to widespread corruption, three other important issues that continued to negate the functioning framework of a mature administration essential for a democratic republic to perform are the use of torture with impunity, caste based discrimination and the failure of the government to address widespread malnutrition and hunger.
None of these concerns are new in the Indian context. In fact it is these evils that sustain the country’s internal power structures. What is alarming however is the banality with which these serious concerns are perceived in India. Today, the torture and extra-judicial execution of a person or the death of an infant from acute malnutrition or the brutal discriminatory practices committed against the members of the Dalit community have no ‘news value’ in the country. Neither are India’s justice institutions in a position to address any of these fundamental negations of justice and equality.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in its 2010 Human Rights Report on India has analysed these issues. A pre-print release of the full country report on India titled ‘Democratic pretentions and administrative follies’ can be downloaded here:
Corruption alone is not that diminishes the efficacy of the justice institutions in India. These institutions are plagued with a series of hurdles, most importantly, the absence of a proper legal framework and resources, unreasonable delay in adjudications and unbridled political interference. To top it all, the intellectual framework with which the country’s justice institutions operate is either retarded or in a state of suspended animation. This has made important state institutions like the police, prosecution and the judiciary in India unable to withstand or counter malicious attempts upon their independence resulting in their appalling inability to respect, protect and promote human rights. This has led to a situation where the defective elements within the justice institutions being able to considerably damage the inner core of these institutions from the inside.
The democratic institutions in India, including its large body of elected representatives of all tiers, are today a shadow of their past. They resemble a termite-ridden and wilted tree waiting for a strong wind to collapse. Those who benefit from this, including national and international entities, are a minority who are privileged to use every possible opening to unsympathetically exploit a weak democratic structure for private profits.
Therefore today, forced eviction of the tribal communities in India from their hearth and hut is considered to be essential and justifiable to feed the greed of a selected few. Repressive laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 are increasingly used to smother political dissent. Even the highest court of the country condones the brute force, inhumanness and injustice behind this draconian law.
The elected representatives, irrespective of the political parties they represent and the position they occupy, unethically benefit from the situation by reining the government and leading it into directions that suit short-sighted political equations, once again at the cost of pushing millions of Indians to peril. The absence of justice in India’s weakening and narrowing democratic space is literally denying the country’s poor even their right to mourn.
However, India is yet not like some of its neighbours where the hope for a better future is virtually lost. The report submitted yesterday by the Parliamentary Select Committee that reviewed the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 in the upper house of the Indian parliament, the Rajya Sabha, is an indication to the fact that the inner ember of reasoning and justice is still not dead in India. While the complete text of the report is awaited, credible reports suggest that the Committee has taken the bold and essential step to literally rewrite the law from its original draft to a meaningful legislation that could contribute considerably to end the culture of injustice in India.
The frail life within the foundations of this seriously ill democracy must be recovered. This requires the vigil and determination of the Indians to save the country from its present drifting along the downward spiral of destruction, and bring it ashore to repair and develop it into a mature democratic republic that India resolved to become 63 years before.
Wikileaks and freedom of expression
The right to freedom of expression includes the right to receive and impart all kinds of information
International controversy over the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables continues to rage. The site’s founder Julian Assange has been granted bail in the UK following an extradition request from Sweden, while several of his alleged supporters have reportedly been arrested over alleged cyber-attacks on websites that have cut off funds to Wikileaks.
Leaked US Diplomatic Cables published recently have focused on alleged corruption in Ghana and central Asia, the killing of a lawyer in Northern Ireland in 1989 and US involvement in Yemen.
Amnesty International examines some of the human rights issues at stake.
Would prosecution of Julian Assange for releasing US government documents be a violation of the right to freedom of expression?
The US government has indicated since July 2010 that it is conducting a legal investigation into the actions of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange for distributing secret documents. A range of US political figures have called for a criminal prosecution of Assange.
According to Amnesty International, criminal proceedings aimed at punishing a private person for communicating evidence about human rights violations can never be justified. The same is true with respect to information on a wide range of other matters of public interest.
At the very least, a significant number of the documents released by Wikileaks appear to fall into these categories, so any prosecution based in whole or in part on those particular documents, would be incompatible with freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression is an internationally-recognised human right that limits the power of the state to prohibit the receipt and publication of information. The burden is on the state to demonstrate that any restriction is both necessary and proportionate, and does not jeopardize the right to freedom of expression itself.
We are unaware of any legal action having yet been taken against Julian Assange for releasing the documents. As such, Amnesty International is not in a position to comment on any possible case against him specifically, as there are no charges to comment on.
Would interfering with payments to Wikileaks via online donation constitute an infringement on freedom of expression?
Over the last week, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard have removed their users’ ability to donate to Wikileaks online, asserting as grounds that Wikileaks engages or may engage in illegal activities. There has been speculation that this restriction was due to US government pressure.
Amnesty International does not have information to confirm or refute that speculation, but emphasizes that governments cannot avoid their obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression by attempting to do indirectly what they would be forbidden from doing directly. Businesses, too, should ensure that their own actions, at minimum, respect human rights.
Would prosecution of employees of the US government who may have provided documents to Wikileaks be a violation of freedom of expresson?
US soldier Private Bradley Manning is currently in detention facing charges that include the leaking of national defence information.
While employees of a government have the right to freedom of expression, they also have duties as an employee, so a government has more scope to impose restrictions on its employees than it would have for private individuals who receive or republish information.
However, Amnesty International would be concerned if a government were to seek to punish a person who, for reasons of conscience, released in a responsible manner information that they reasonably believed to be evidence of human rights violations that the government was attempting to keep secret in order to prevent the public learning the truth about the violations.
Is it legitimate for governments to seek to keep their diplomatic discussions and negotiations confidential when they perceive it to be in their national interest?
Governments can of course in general seek to keep their communications confidential by using technical means or by imposing duties on their employees; it is not, however, legitimate for governments to invoke broad concepts of national security or national interest in justification of concealing evidence of human rights abuses.
Also, once information comes into the hands of private individuals, states cannot rely on sweeping claims of national interest to justify coercive measures aimed at preventing further public disclosure or discussion of the information.
International human rights law allows states to restrict freedom of expression only on specific and narrowly-applied grounds: national security, public order, public health or morals, or protection of the rights and reputations of others. However, even where one of these grounds might apply, states do not have a blank cheque to keep information secret or to punish individuals for publishing it, simply by declaring the information to be “classified” or declaring it necessary to restrict it as a matter of “national security”: the state must show that the particular restrictions are necessary and proportionate to the specific threat they claim justifies the restriction.
Is Amnesty International concerned about the potential for harm to individuals as a result of the leaked information?
Amnesty International has consistently called on Wikileaks to make every possible effort to ensure that individuals are not put at increased risk of violence or other human rights abuses as a result of, for instance, being identifiable as sources in the documents.
However, risks of this kind are not the same as the risk of public embarrassment or calls for accountability that public officials could face if documents expose their involvement in human rights abuses or other forms of misconduct.
Do the diplomatic cables being leaked by Wikileaks contain information relevant to human rights?
Some of the Department of State documents released confirm or provide more detail about human rights violations that Amnesty International has publicly raised in the past. For example:
The February 2007 cable discussing US opposition to the possible issuance by German authorities of international arrest warrants for thirteen CIA agents allegedly involved in the Khaled el-Masri rendition and enforced disappearance relates to a number of Amnesty International reports, most recently Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention (15 November 2010).
The January 2010 cable reporting on a meeting between the President of Yemen and US military corroborated Amnesty International’s earlier findings that a US cruise missile appeared to have been used in a 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah, in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen. Amnesty International had called on the US government to disclose its involvement in the incident – despite the fact that the Yemeni government claimed that it alone had carried it out.
Previous Wikileak releases on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars corroborated information that we received from other sources. Amnesty International will continue to appraise and cite information from documents provided by Wikileaks that are relevant to human rights issues, alongside many other sources of information.
Are the attempts to extradite Julian Assange for sexual offences in Sweden, politically motivated?
It has been reported that the charges Julian Assange faces in Sweden are not related to the Wikileaks release. There has been speculation that authorities in Sweden or elsewhere are not handling the case in an ordinary manner, and that the way in which it is being pursued is the result of a more general targeting of Julian Assange for the actions of Wikileaks. As yet, Amnesty International does not have information that would allow us either to confirm or to dispel such speculation.
As in any other criminal case, due process should be followed, and Amnesty International will be monitoring the progress of the case closely.
What is Amnesty International’s position on the most recent release of materials by Wikileaks?
Amnesty International welcomes efforts to put information about human rights abuses in the public domain. Wikileaks have publicly announced that they will release thousands of documents gradually over the coming weeks or months, and Amnesty International will carefully study any documents that appear to concern human rights abuses.
While not all of the documents being released by Wikileaks at the moment are relevant to human rights abuses, we would stress that the right to freedom of expression includes the right to receive and impart all kinds of information, subject only to narrowly-defined exceptions.
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