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Joint communication to the Indian Government - detention and judicial proceedings against 11 human rights defenders

The human rights defenders had voiced their opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019

On 11 June 2020, together with other Special Procedures mandate holders and independent experts, I sent a communication to the Indian Government concerning the detention and bringing of charges against eleven human rights defenders. This communication can now be made public.

The human rights defenders involved were:

  • Mr Meeran Haider

  • Ms Gulfisha Fatima

  • Ms Safoora Zargar

  • Mr Shifa Ur Rehman

  • Mr Asif Iqbal Tanha

  • Ms Devanga Kalita

  • Ms Natasha Narwal

  • Mr Khalid Saifi

  • Dr Kafeel Khan

  • Mr Sharjeel Inam

  • Mr Akhil Gogoi 

According to the information received:

Mr Haider, Ms Fatima, Ms Zargar, Mr Ur Rehman and Mr Tanha were being held in pre-trial detention in connection to a police investigation launched on the back of a FIR filed by a Dehli police officer in connection ith peaceful protests against the Citzenship (Amendment) Act which took place in Dehli in April 2020. They were each arrested between the 1 April and the 16 May 2020.

Ms Kalita and Ms Narwal were arrested on 23 May 2020 by the Special Crimes Cell of the Dehli Police on the basis of their participation in a sit-in protest in north-east Dehli in February 2020. They were subsequently granted bail, with the presiding judge holding that they had merely been exercising their right to freedom of expression by protesting, however a further FIR was filed against them and they were not released.

Mr Saifi was arrested on 26 February 2020 after his participation in a sit in protest in Khureji Khas, Dehli. He was allegedly tortured by police in the hours following his arrest.

Dr Khan was arrested at Mumbai Airport on 29 January 2020 having made a speech critical of the CAA at Aligarh Muslim University the month before. He was released on bail, but was subsequently re-arrested under the National Security Act.

Mr Inam was arrested on 28 January 2020 in Dehli. He was charged with sedition in relation to an anti-CAA speech he had made at JMI University the month previously.

Mr Gogoi was arrested on 12 December 2019 following a speech he delivered on the CAA in Jorhat, Assam. The case against him was filed by the National Investigation Agency and he was charged, among other things, with criminal conspiracy, sedition and hate speech.

The full communication can be accessed here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25343

A response from the Government was received on 31 July 2020. This response is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=35458

On 11 July 2020, Mr Gogoi tested positive for Covid-19. According to media reports, on 17 July he was granted bail in three cases filed against him by police, however two cases filed against him by the National Investigation Agency remained. His request for bail in these cases was rejected on 7 August.

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