India doesn’t properly protect human rights defenders: UN Special Rapporteur

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Mary Lawlor is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. (Image Source: Twitter/Mary Lawlor)

Lawlor wrote a letter to the Indian government in November raising concerns about Jesuit priest Stan Swamy’s arrest but hasn’t received any reply yet. 

On Friday United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said that India doesn’t “properly protect human rights defenders.” She further stated that she had written to the Indian government in November regarding the Jesuit priest and activist Stan Swamy’s arrest in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case but hadn’t received any response yet. She said: “Governments are given a 60-day period during which they are expected to reply. But I’m still to receive a response from the Indian authorities.” Lawlor was speaking at an online event that marked the 100 days of imprisonment of Swamy.

Lawlor said: “India is a state which doesn’t properly protect human rights defenders. I’m appalled by the treatment of human rights defenders such as Father Stan Swamy who embodies solidarity.” She further stated: “It’s clear that there are severe challenges to promoting and protecting human rights in the country. Make no mistake, the state is responsible for protection of human rights defenders.” 

Swamy was arrested on October 8 by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case under the anti-terrorism law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) 1967. He faces charges for participation in a Maoist conspiracy to overthrow the government and assassinate the prime minister. 

Lawlor criticized UAPA while stating that its definition of a terrorist act is not precise or clear and fails to provide legal certainty. She also added that the law has resulted in a “highly concerning conflation of human rights advocacy with terrorism” and that “defending human rights is not terrorism.”

Lawlor has tweeted a copy of her letter and called Swamy’s arrest an “arbitrary detention.”

Delhi University professor Apoorvanand, who moderated the event, said it was a shame that Swamy has to spend 100 days in prison of a country that he endeavored to create: “He has obviously been jailed for the crime of defending the liberties of the most oppressed, that is the Adivasis and Dalits and minorities.”

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