Nations: An independent United Nations human rights
expert has called on Indian authorities to do much more to ensure
a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders
working in the country.
"I am particularly concerned at the plight of human rights
defenders working for the rights of marginalised people, i.e.
Dalits, Adavasis (tribals), religious minorities and sexual
minorities, who face particular risks and ostracism because of
their activities," said Margaret Sekaggya at the end of her
fact-finding mission to India.
The visit by Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights defenders, began on Jan10 and included discussions
with state officials, a broad segment of civil society and the
press, representatives of UN agencies and the diplomatic corps, as
well as visits to five states, the UN news centre said.
She underscored the testimonies she received about human rights
defenders and their families, who have been killed, tortured,
ill-treated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and
detained, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their
legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedom.
"I am deeply concerned about the branding and stigmatisation of
human rights defenders, labelled as Naxalites (Maoists),
terrorists, militants, insurgents or anti-nationalists," Sekaggya
Defenders, including journalists, who report on violations by
state and non-state actors in areas affected by insurgency are
being targeted by both sides, she said.
"I urge the authorities to clearly instruct security forces to
respect the work of human rights defenders, conduct prompt and
impartial investigations on violations committed against human
rights defenders and prosecute perpetrators."
Among her other recommendations, Sekaggya said the Government
should enact a law on the protection of human rights defenders "in
full and meaningful consultation with civil society," and review
the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission with a
view to strengthening it.
Noting the "arbitrary application of security laws at the national
and state levels," she urged the government to repeal the Public
Safety Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and to review
the application of other security laws which negatively impact on
the situation of human rights defenders.
Sekaggya, who works in an independent and unpaid capacity, will
present her report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council at
a future session in 2012.