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Global crisis on torture exposed by new worldwide campaign

Over the last five years, Amnesty International has documented on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries. Over the last five years, Amnesty International has documented on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries.

 

Governments around the world are two-faced on torture – prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Amnesty International has accused governments around the world of betraying their commitments to stamp out torture, three decades after the ground-breaking Convention Against Torture was adopted by the UN in 1984.

“Governments around the world are two-faced on torture – prohibiting it in law, but facilitating it in practice” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, as he launched Stop Torture, Amnesty International’s latest global campaign to combat widespread torture and other ill-treatment in the modern world.

“Torture is not just alive and well – it is flourishing in many parts of the world. As more governments seek to justify torture in the name of national security, the steady progress made in this field over the last thirty years is being eroded.”

Since 1984, 155 states have ratified the UN Convention Against Torture, 142 of which are researched by Amnesty International. In 2014, Amnesty International observed at least 79 of these still torturing – more than half the states party to the Convention that the organisation reports on. A further 40 UN states haven’t adopted the Convention, although the global legal ban on torture binds them too.

Over the last five years, Amnesty International has reported on torture and other forms of ill-treatment in at least 141 countries from every region of the world – virtually every country on which it works. The secretive nature of torture means the true number of countries that torture is likely to be higher still.

In some of these countries torture is routine and systematic. In others, Amnesty International has only documented isolated and exceptional cases.  The organization finds even one case of torture or other ill-treatment totally unacceptable.

The Stop Torture campaign launches with a new media briefing,Torture in 2014: 30 Years of Broken Promises, which provides an overview of the use of torture in the world today.

The briefing details a variety of torture techniques – from stress positions and sleep deprivation to electrocution of the genitals – used against criminal suspects, security suspects, dissenting voices, political rivals and others.

As part of the campaign Amnesty International commissioned aGlobescan survey to gauge worldwide attitudes to torture. Alarmingly, the survey found nearly half (44%) of respondents – from 21 countries across every continent – fear they would be at risk of torture if taken into custody in their country.

The vast majority (82%) believe there should be clear laws against torture. However, more than a third (36%) still thought torture could be justified in certain circumstances.

“The results from this new global survey are startling, with nearly half of the people we surveyed feeling fearful and personally vulnerable to torture. The vast majority of people believe that there should be clear rules against torture, although more than a third still think that torture could be justified in certain circumstances. Overall, we can see broad global support amongst the public for action to prevent torture,” said Caroline Holme, Director at GlobeScan.

Measures such as the criminalisation of torture in national legislation, opening detention centres to independent monitors, and video recording interrogations have all led to a decrease in the use of torture in those countries taking their commitments under the Convention Against Torture seriously.

Amnesty International is calling on governments to implement protective mechanisms to prevent and punish torture – such as proper medical examinations, prompt access to lawyers, independent checks on places of detention, independent and effective investigations of torture allegations, the prosecution of suspects and proper redress for victims.

The organization’s global work against torture continues, but will focus in particular on five countries where torture is rife and Amnesty International believes it can achieve significant impact. Substantive reports with specific recommendations for each will form the spine of the campaign.

  • In Mexico the government argues that torture is the exception rather than the norm, but in reality abuse by police and security forces is widespread and goes unpunished. Miriam López Vargas, a 31 year-old mother of four, was abducted from her hometown of Ensenada by two soldiers in plainclothes, and taken to a military barracks. She was held there for a week, raped three times, asphyxiated and electrocuted to force her to confess that she was involved in drug-related offences. Three years have passed, but none of her torturers have been brought to justice.
  • Justice is out of reach for most torture survivors in the Philippines. A secret detention facility was recently discovered where police officers abused detainees ‘for fun’.  Police officers reportedly spun a ‘wheel of torture’ to decide how to torture prisoners.  Media coverage led to an internal investigation and some officers being dismissed, but Amnesty International is calling for a thorough and impartial investigation which will lead to the prosecution in court of the officers involved.  Most acts of police torture remain unreported and torture survivors continue to suffer in silence.
  • In Morocco and Western Sahara, authorities rarely investigate reports of torture. Spanish authorities extradited Ali Aarrass to Morocco despite fears he would be tortured. He was picked up by intelligence officers and taken to a secret detention centre, where he says they electrocuted his testicles, beat the soles of his feet and hanged him by his wrists for hours on end. He says the officers forced him to confess to assisting a terrorist group. Ali Aarass was convicted and sentenced to 12 years behind bars on the basis of that “confession”. His allegation of torture has never been investigated.
  • In Nigeria, police and military personnel use torture as a matter of routine. When Moses Akatugba was arrested by soldiers he was 16 years old. He said they beat him and shot him in the hand. According to Moses he was then transfered to the police, who hanged him by his limbs for hours at a police station. Moses says he was tortured into signing a “confession” that he was involved in a robbery. The allegation that he confessed as a result of torture was never fully investigated. In November 2013, after eight years waiting for a verdict, Moses was sentenced to death.
  • In Uzbekistan, torture is pervasive but few torturers are ever brought to justice. The country is closed to Amnesty International. Dilorom Abdukadirova spent five years in exile after security forces opened fire on a protest she was attending. On returning to Uzbekistan, she was detained, barred from seeing her family, and charged with attempting to overthrow the government.   During her trial, she looked emaciated with bruising on her face. Her family are convinced she had been tortured.

“Thirty years ago Amnesty led the campaign for a worldwide commitment to combat torture resulting in the UN’s Convention Against Torture. Much progress has been made since, but it is disheartening that today we still need a worldwide campaign to ensure that those promises are fulfilled,” said Salil Shetty.

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Nepal gender bias sparks health crisis in young women #Vaw

English: Kathmandu, Nepal

English: Kathmandu, Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Hundreds of thousands of young women living in impoverished areas of rural Nepal have developed a debilitating uterus condition which usually only occurs after the menopause, Amnesty International said Thursday.

In a report, Amnesty blamed “ingrained discrimination” for the widespread prevalence of uterine prolapse, a condition which sees the uterus descend into and protrude out of the vagina, with many  falling victim after having to return to work in the fields days after giving birth.

Patients suffer from  that leaves them unable to work, walk or even sit comfortably.

Madhu Malhotra, director of Amnesty’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme, said that successive governments had failed to address the underlying issues which led so many women to develop the condition.

“If you look at the risk factors leading to uterine prolapse, we see malnutrition among women, cultural practices like forced early marriages, early pregnancies, no rest after childbirth, poor access to healthcare,” Amnesty’s Malhotra told AFP in Kathmandu.

Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia, is a predominantly rural nation where women typically marry early, have children while still in their teens and are expected at the same time to labour in the fields.

Amnesty, quoting UN and Nepalese government figures, said that up to 10 percent of Nepal’s 13.6 million female population were sufferers but the actual figure was much higher in some areas.

Prevailing social stigma around the condition, which makes it painful for women to have sex and complicates childbirth, leaves many women reluctant to seek help, the report said.

“It’s high time it is seen as a human rights issue, not just a women’s health issue,” Malhotra said

 

 

 

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PRESS RELEASE- Amnesty India welcomes bail for Prisoners of Conscience Soni Sori and Lingaram

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA

PRESS RELEASE

7 February 2014

India: Amnesty India welcomes bail for Prisoners of Conscience Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

The Supreme Court’s ruling to grant bail to Prisoners of Conscience Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi who were under detention for over two years on false charges is a promising development, Amnesty International India said today.

The rights organisation also called upon the Government of Chhattisgarh to take note of this verdict and immediately and unconditionally drop all remaining charges against the two Adivasi activists.

The Supreme Court granted bail to the duo more than two years after they were arrested on what Amnesty considers are false charges levelled against them for criticizing the human rights violations of security forces in Chhattisgarh.

“This is a very encouraging development and we welcome the SupremeCourt’s verdict which gives hope for the human rights movement in Chhattisgarh,” said Shashikumar Velath, ProgrammesDirector at Amnesty International India.

“Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi were kept under detention merely tosilence their struggle for accountability and justice in Chhattisgarh.”

Soni Sori has been in detention since October 2011 and Lingaram Kodopi since September 2011. Soni Sori has been acquitted in five cases filed against her. Lingaram Kodopi has been acquitted in one of two cases filedagainst him.

One of the pending cases against both involves charges that they had acted as couriers and transferred funds from a corporate mining firm, Essar, to armed Maoists as “protection money” in September 2011 to ensure the firms unhindered operations.

On 7 July 2013, the Chhattisgarh High Court denied bail to Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi on the grounds of the “nature of allegation, quality of evidence and the seriousness of the offence.” A general manager at an Essar steel plant and a contractor for Essar, also arrested in the case and facing the same charges were released on bail on January 2012 and February 2012 respectively.

“The Chhattisgarh authorities should take a cue from this verdict and immediately correct the historic wrongs committed against these two Prisoners of Conscience by dropping all other charges,” Shashikumar said.

“This emblematic case should also serve as a reminder of the hundreds of other human rights violations that have been carried out in Chhattisgarh in the garb of fighting Maoist insurgency. The state and its agencies should revisit their policies in tackling dissent and human rights accountability.”

Soni Sori has alleged that she was tortured while she was in policecustody on 8 and 9 October 2011. In letters written to the Supreme Court, she said that police officials had stripped and sexually assaulted her and given her electric shocks. On 29 October 2011, a government hospital examined her under court order, and reported that two stones had been inserted in her vagina and one in her rectum, and that she had annular tears in her spine.

The senior police official who Soni Sori said had ordered and supervised her torture was conferred a gallantry award by the President of India in January 2012.

On 12 November 2013, the Supreme Court had granted the duo interim bail till their bail hearing was completed. In September 2013, Amnesty International India had submitted a petition supported by over 10,000 people to Chief Minister Raman Singh seeking the immediate and unconditional release of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi.

Background Information

Soni Sori, a 36 year old school-teacher and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi, a 26-year old journalist, were critical of human rights violations committed both by security forces and armed Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

In April 2010, at a public hearing in Delhi, Lingaram Kodopi detailed violations committed by security forces against Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, following which the state police announced that he was the prime suspect in an armed Maoist attack on a local Congress party leader’s residence.

In March 2011, Lingaram Kodopi also highlighted the killing of threeAdivasis by security forces during a confrontation in three villages. During the attack, two persons went missing and at least five women were sexually assaulted. Lingaram Kodopi was eventually arrested in September 2011 on false charges of aiding armed Maoists.

Soni Sori’s huband, Anil Futane, was arrested in 2011 for allegedlyplanning and executing an attack on a local Congress party leader. He was acquitted on 1 May 2013, after spending three years in jail, during which time he was allegedly tortured. He died on 2 August 2013. Soni Sori was denied temporary release on bail to perform her husband’s last rites.

Soni Sori has been acquitted in five cases against her, and LingaramKodopi in one of the two cases against him.

In 2012, Sori was acquitted in two cases in which she was accused ofattacking a police station in Kuakonda and blowing up a government office in Kuakonda in 2010.

In February 2013, a trial court acquitted her of being involved in anattack on a police team near an Essar plant in Kirandul, and of being part of a Maoist armed group team which attempted to blow up trucks belonging to Essar.

In early May 2013, a trial court acquitted Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopiand 15 other persons accused of conspiring and participating in the attack against a local Congress party leader at Nakulnar in Chhattisgarh in July 2010.

In late May, another court granted Soni Sori bail in a case in whichpolice claim she had participated in the torching of vehicles in Nerli Ghat in September 2010.

A number of social and political activists and human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh have faced false charges and imprisonment for highlighting the human rights situation in the state. Among them are Binayak Sen of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and Kartam Joga, an Adivasi leader of the Communist Party of India, both declared as Prisoners of Conscience by AmnestyInternational.

Binayak Sen spent more than two years in prison and was released on bail by India’s Supreme Court in April 2011 afte

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Thousands call for release of Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila #AFSPA

Irom Sharmila PresserBY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA TEAM

Over 16,000 people have supported an Amnesty International India campaign seeking the immediate and unconditional release of human rights activist and Prisoner of Conscience Irom Chanu Sharmila.

“The governments of Manipur and Delhi should heed the thousands of voices urging them to drop all charges against Irom Sharmila and release her immediately,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India.

“Irom Sharmila is a Prisoner of Conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs, and her time in custody is a continuing reminder of India’s intolerance to dissent.”

Irom Sharmila has been on a prolonged hunger strike for the last 13 years, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

She was arrested by the Manipur police shortly after she began her hunger strike on 2 November 2000, and charged with attempting to commit suicide – a criminal offence under Indian law. In March 2013, a Delhi court also charged Irom Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide in October 2006, when she staged a protest in Delhi for two days.

Irom Sharmila is being detained in the security ward of a hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, where she is force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose. Visitors, including her family and friends have to go through a lengthy process of obtaining permission from the Manipur government.

On 30 October 2013, India’s National Human Rights Commission directed the Government of Manipur to immediately remove the restrictions on access to Irom Sharmila , calling them a “breach of India’s obligations under international human rights standards and principles, and a grave violation of human rights”.

The Commission acknowledged that Irom Sharmila was being detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs, and said that the Manipur government was “trying to break her spirit through this enforced isolation, for which there is no judicial mandate”.

“Thousands of people have acknowledged that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is not an attempt to commit suicide but a protest against human rights violations,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan. “Authorities must not use charges of attempted suicide to deflect attention from the important issues that Irom Sharmila is raising at a huge personal cost.”

In February 2012, the Supreme Court of India observed in its ruling in the Ram Lila Maidan Incident case that a hunger strike is “a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our constitutional jurisprudence.”

The British Medical Association, in a briefing to the World Medical Association, has clarified that, “[a] hunger strike is not equivalent to suicide. Individuals who embark on hunger strikes aim to achieve goals important to them but generally hope and intend to survive.” This position is embodied by the World Medical Association in its Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers.

Speaking to Amnesty International India in September 2013, Irom Sharmila, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, said, “My struggle is my message. I love my life very much and want to have the freedom to meet people and struggle for issues close to my heart.”

Amnesty International India’s public campaign seeking Irom Sharmila’s release was launched on 2 November 2013, and has been supported by groups and individual supporters across the world.

Background

Irom Sharmila Chanu began her hunger strike in November 2000, after the killing of 10 people in Manipur by the Assam Rifles (a paramilitary force) in Malom, Imphal. She has consistently demanded the repeal of the AFSPA.

Irom Sharmila has never been convicted of attempting to commit suicide. However, as the offence is punishable with imprisonment for up to one year, she has been regularly released after completing a year in judicial custody, only to be re-arrested shortly after as she continues her fast.

Although attempting to commit suicide is a bailable offence in India, Sharmila has refused to sign the bail bonds, maintaining that she has not committed any offence. Instead, she has called for the criminal charges against her to be dropped. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempting to commit suicide, saying she is involved in a non-violent protest.

Amnesty International and several other rights organizations continue to demand the repeal of the AFSPA.

The AFSPA, which has been in force in parts of North-eastern India since 1958, and a virtually identical law (The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990) in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990, provides sweeping powers to soldiers, including the power to shoot to kill in certain situations and to arrest people without warrants. The Act also provides virtual immunity from prosecution for security personnel, by mandating prior permission from the central government, which is almost never granted.

The AFSPA falls short of international human rights standards, including provisions of treaties to which India is a state party; and is inconsistent with India’s international legal obligations to respect and protect the right to life, liberty and security of person, to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, and to an effective remedy.

Several UN bodies and experts, including the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, have stated that the AFSPA must be repealed.

A number of Indian bodies, including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Committee and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir have also urged the repeal of the law.

The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review laws against sexual assault, said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimized impunity for sexual violence. The Justice Santosh Hegde Commission, set up by the Supreme Court in January 2013 to investigate cases of extrajudicial executions in Manipur, described the law as “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-irom-sharmila-said-in-2011-i-dont-want-to-be-a-martyr-are-you-listening-afspa/" target="_blank"> #India – Irom Sharmila said in 2011 – ‘I don’t want to be a martyr’, are you Listening ? #AFSPA
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/irom-sharmila-the-iron-lady-produced-before-court-afspa/" target="_blank">Irom Sharmila – The Iron Lady produced before court #AFSPA

 

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PRESS RELEASE— IADHRI Demands Freedom for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: [email protected]

25 October, 2013

 lingaSONIS0RI3

 

On Monday, 28th October, the Supreme Court of India will take up the bail petitions of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, adivasi prisoners in Chhattisgarh who have been incarcerated for more than two years. The arrest and the subsequent torture of Soni Sori in October 2011 drew international condemnation [1]. Much less widely known has been the arrest the previous month of Sori’s nephew, Kodopi, who was also subjected to torture by the Chhattisgarh police [2].

False charges were subsequently foisted on both of them, with Sori being implicated in eight cases and Kodopi in two cases. Sori was acquitted in all but two of the cases and Kodopi in one of the two cases. Sori was also granted bail in one of the two remaining cases [3]. The one remaining case against both of them relates to allegations of acting as a courier between Essar, a business conglomerate with steel manufacturing operations in Chhattisgarh, and the outlawed Maoist Communist Party of India. Though two other accused in this case, the general manager of the Essar operations in the state and a contract worker, were granted bail within months of their arrest, the trial court and the state High Court have denied Sori and Kodopi bail earlier this year [4] and it is their appeal against this decision that the Supreme Court is expected to hear on Monday.

Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, where she had gone seeking legal help, and taken by the Chhattisgarh police to Dantewada. As detailed in her letters from prison, she was tortured in police custody and sexually abused. Her allegations were substantiated by independent medical examinations conducted in Kolkata under the directions of the Supreme Court. While imprisoned in Raipur, she continued to face abuse and denial of medical care from the police and the jail authorities until the Supreme Court ordered that she be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment [5,6].

Sori’s husband Anil Futane died last August 2nd, soon after being released from jail [7]. He was arrested in July 2010 and accused of involvement in the attack on the home of Congress politician and contractor Avdesh Gautam. Sori, Kodopi and fourteen others were also falsely implicated in this case but all of them were acquitted. According to other jail inmates, Futane was beaten so severely in the prison that he was paralyzed. They attribute his death to health complications resulting from torture and the failure of prison authorities to give him medical care.

Kodopi himself has undergone serious abuse and torture since his detention without charges in 2009, when he was locked up inside a toilet in a police station for forty days. He was freed the following year only after the intervention of the Chhattisgarh High Court responding to a habeas corpus petition. Facing continued threats from the police and the Maoists, he went to Delhi where he studied journalism for a year. During his time in Delhi, he spoke out against the atrocities committed by the police on the Adivasi communities. Soon after he graduated from his journalism program in April 2011, he returned to Chhattisgarh where police and paramilitary forces had burnt down the villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla, killed three people and raped three women. He documented the scenes of these crimes and recorded video testimonies of the survivors [8].

The cases of Sori and Kodopi are not isolated. Especially (but not exclusively) in Chhattisgarh, thousands of other prisoners are known to be held for years on spurious charges, some of them are not charged for many years and held as under trials for long periods of time. The draconian provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act enable the state police and other security officials to arrest and imprison anyone on dubious grounds, often to silence critical voices. Many of these prisoners are also known to undergo torture, sexual and other abuse at the hands of police and prison officials.

During her more than two years of incarceration, the Supreme Court of India has been the only institution from which Soni Sori has been able to get any judicial relief. We are hopeful, therefore, that this time too, the Supreme Court would decide in her and Kodopi’s favor and grant them bail. However, as we have pointed out many times and as corroborated by human rights organizations and groups such including PUCL, PUDR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi deserve to be free. Now bereft of their father, Sori’s three young children need to be urgently reunited with their mother. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that the Chhattisgarh government

  • Drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

  • Compensate them for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on them,

  • Conduct an impartial and expeditious investigation of all the cases of prisoners in the state and release all those facing spurious charges, and

  • Punish the police and other officials responsible for carrying out torture and for filing spurious cases against them.

References:

[1] IADHRI Statement against the Torture and Politically Motivated Arrest of Soni Sori.

[2] They dared to speak up, but that’s not done in Chhattisgarh, Tehelka, 30 June, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/they-dared-to-speak-up-but-thats-not-done-in-dantewada/

[3] Activist Soni Sori gets bail in one more case. The Hindu, 31 May, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/activist-soni-sori-gets-bail-in-one-more-case/article4767974.ece

[4] Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi denied bail by Chhattisgarh High Court, The Hindu,  8 July 2013.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-lingaram-kodopi-denied-bail-by-chhattisgarh-high-court/article4895096.ece

[5] The Government will kill me, Tehelka, 7 April, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/the-government-will-kill-me/

[6] Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison: An International Women’s Day Video Montage.http://iadhri.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/reading-soni-soris-letters-from-prison-an-international-womens-day-video-montage/

[7] Soni Sori’s Husband, Anil Futane, Passes Away, Tehelka, 3 August, 2013. http://www.tehelka.com/soni-soris-husband-anil-futane-passes-away/

[8] The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me, Tehelka, 4 May, 2012. http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws040512country.asp

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Amnesty pleads for Soni Sori’s release

SONIS0RI3New Delhi,Politics, Sat, 28 Sep 2013IANS

New Delhi, Sep 28 (IANS) Amnesty International has submitted a petition to the Chhattisgarh chief minister urging him to drop all charges against tribal activists Soni Sori and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi and release them “immediately and unconditionally”.

Amnesty said it considers Sori and Kodopi to be prisoners of conscience who have been arrested on false charges solely because they criticised human rights violations by the security forces in Chhattisgarh.

“People from across India are calling for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi’s release,” said Shashi Kumar Velath, programme director at Amnesty International India.

Sori and Kodopi have been in detention since October and September 2011 respectively. Sori’s husband Anil Futane died Aug 2, 2013, but she was denied bail to perform his last rites.

“Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi’s continued detention is a matter of shame for India,” said Velath.

He added: “Their cases show just how far authorities in Chhattisgarh can go to silence their critics. Government of Chhattisgarh needs to stop filing politically motivated charges against Adivasis and start listening to what they have to say.”

Sori, 36, a school teacher and her nephew Kodopi,26, a journalist, were critical of human rights violations committed both by the security forces and the armed Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

The Supreme Court will hear the bail applications moved by both Kodopi and Sori Sep 30. Sori has alleged that she was tortured while she was in police custody on 8 and 9 October 2011. In letters written to the Supreme Court, she said that police officials stripped and sexually assaulted her and gave her electric shocks.

A senior police official who Sori said had ordered and supervised her torture was conferred a gallantry award by the President of India in January 2012.

 

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-in-soni-soris-case-the-state-project-of-victimising-adivasis-has-reached-inhuman-levels-vaw/" target="_blank"> #India- ‘In Soni Sori’s case, the state project of victimising adivasis has reached inhuman levels’ #Vaw

 

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Ray of hope for survivors of the Bhopal disaster

Posted on 7 August 2013 by Livewire Team, Amnesty
Former UCC Plant, BhopalFormer UCC Plant, Bhopal © Amnesty International

By Madhu Malhotra, Director of Amnesty International’s Gender, Identity and Sexuality Program

It is almost three decades since one of the worst corporate disasters in history – the devastating 1984 gas leak at the Bhopal pesticide plant in India. It is estimated that the leak killed more than 22,000 people and left another 100,000 suffering from health problems. But far from being forgotten, the impact of the leak and the plant’s former operations continue to be felt today by people in the area.

When I first visited Bhopal, I was struck by the fact that the skeleton of the plant remains in the centre of the city; an ongoing, visible reminder of the disaster to the residents of Bhopal. The site is easily accessible to the local population, with broken boundary walls and little security. It is estimated that there are about 350 tonnes of toxic waste inside the site. Contamination has also been found in soil and groundwater at and around the site.

The tens of thousands of survivors and their families have yet to receive adequate compensation from Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) (the majority owner of the Indian company that operated the plant) or the Indian government.

Research conducted by Amnesty International in December 2012 found that women in Bhopal are at the forefront of the struggle for justice. Since the gas leak, women have reported ongoing serious health issues including gynaecological and reproductive health disorders. Others told me that, with their husbands and partners dead or too ill to keep on working, they have been the sole bread winners for their families, while at the same time caring for ill family members.

“It’s been round the clock physical and mental agony for almost three decades,” Hazra Bi, a Bhopal activist and survivor, told me. “But I won’t give up the fight for justice. It’s a question of Bhopal’s future generations.”

We at Amnesty International, along with local and international partners, have been campaigning for justice for the Bhopal victims and survivors for many years. It has often been an uphill struggle, but two recent developments have offered some hope to the victims and survivors, their families and local residents.

On 23 July 2013, a Bhopal court ordered US chemical giant The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) to appear before it to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary UCC has repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the disaster.  UCC is accused of “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.

Although these criminal charges were brought in 1987, UCC has repeatedly ignored court summons in India. Dow has owned UCC since 2001 but has consistently denied responsibility for any UCC liability in relation to Bhopal. The court summons was a victory for all of us campaigning for the survivors of Bhopal, and an important step forward in efforts to ensure corporate accountability for the disaster.

Then, on 1 August 2013, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhireleased its action plan for the environmental remediation of the Bhopal site and surrounding areas.

Survivors and human rights campaigners have repeatedly called for Dow/UCC and the Indian government to address the ongoing environmental and health impact of prior operations at the site. But despite numerous studies finding soil and groundwater contamination at and around the site, little effective action has been taken to remediate the contamination.

CSE’s action plan offers hope that something will now be done. In April 2013, CSE brought together many of the organisations that had previously studied and reported on the contamination at Bhopal.

Together, they saw eye to eye on many of the key issues, and most importantly agreed an action plan for securing the site, removing the toxic waste and addressing the soil and groundwater contamination.

While the action plan is an NGO initiative, it was agreed in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board, part of the Indian government’s Ministry of Environment & Forests. It could therefore be a huge step towards making sure that people in Bhopal can finally live in a clean and healthy environment.

I left Bhopal with these inspiring words from Rampyari Bai, aged 85, activist and survivor of the Bhopal disaster: “I will fight for our rights and justice until my last breath so another Bhopal doesn’t take place in this world.”

There’s still a long way to go, but these two developments have been welcome and positive news, They give hope to all those who have campaigned for so long for justice for the survivors of Bhopal, and a safe living environment for today’s residents.

 

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Government must heed to Manipur panel’s findings and end impunity for “fake encounters”

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA
Public Statement
24 July 2013

Government must heed Manipur panel’s findings and end impunity for “fake encounters

An independent panel set up by India’s Supreme Court to investigate six alleged extrajudicial executions in the northeastern state of Manipur has found damning evidence of impunity and abuse of special powers by security forces, resulting in widespread human rights violations.

The panel found that all seven deaths in the six cases they investigated were extrajudicial executions, and not deaths resulting from “encounters” where security forces claimed they had fired in self-defence against members of armed groups.

The panel also said that the continued operation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in Manipur has made “a mockery of the law,” and that security forces have been “transgressing the legal bounds for their counter-insurgency operations in the state of Manipur.”

The Supreme Court appointed the panel in January 2013 in response to a public interest litigation filed by a Manipur-based victims’ group and a local human rights organisation seeking investigation into 1,528 alleged extrajudicial executions committed in the state between 1979 and 2012.

The three-member panel, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, was tasked to determine whether a sample of six cases raised by the petitioners were “fake encounters,” staged to cover up extrajudicial executions. The panel was also directed to analyze the functioning of the state police and security forces in Manipur.

The panel submitted its report to the Court on 4 April. The petitioners received a copy of the report on 15 July.

In its report, the panel said that none of the seven people killed in the cases it examined had any formal criminal charges against them. It stated that security forces appeared to have assumed that the seven individuals had to be eliminated and acted accordingly.

In one case, the panel noted that the victim suffered 16 bullet injuries shot at close range, indicating a clear disproportionate use of force. It said that the medical evidence in the case indicated that the security forces’ intentions were to kill the suspect, not disable and arrest. The panel said, “The incident in question is not an encounter, but an operation by the security forces wherein death of the victims was caused knowingly.”

In another case involving the killing of a 12 year-old boy, security personnel told the panel that they had fired in self-defence. The post-mortem report stated that the victim suffered four bullet injuries, all of which were potentially fatal, while none of the security forces were injured.

The panel concluded, “It is extremely difficult to believe that nearly 20 trained security personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons…could not have overpowered/disabled the victim.” It concluded that “the incident in which the deceased…was killed was not an encounter nor was he killed in exercise of the right of self-defence.”

The report also identified serious investigative lapses committed by investigators and persistent abuse of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It called for all deaths resulting from encounters to be investigated by senior police officials, and for the Manipur Criminal Investigation Department to be “suitably strengthened” within six months to carry out such duties effectively.  It also called for the cases to be monitored regularly by a committee chaired by the head of the state human rights commission, and tried by a special court.

Crucially, the panel pointed to the AFSPA as a key contributor to rights violations by security forces.

The report stated, “The continuous use of the AFSPA for decades in Manipur has evidently had little or no effect on the situation. On the other hand, the six cases, which have been shown to be not real encounters, are egregious examples of the AFSPA’s gross abuse.”

The panel echoed a statement made by the Jeevan Reddy Commission, another government committee formed to review the AFSPA in 2005, which said that the law had become “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”

The panel’s report recorded how security forces in Manipur were disregarding procedural safeguards set out in Supreme Court rulings and Army directives to ensure that AFSPA powers were used with exceptional caution and with the minimum force necessary.

Moreover, the panel found no information to back the central government’s assertions to the Supreme Court that the use of AFSPA powers was being closely monitored. Rather, after repeated requests, they were told that there was no official record of basic information essential to such monitoring such as the number of civilians killed or injured by the police, army or other special forces in Manipur.

However, the panel stopped short of calling for the AFSPA’s repeal, and instead recommended that the law cease to operate in more parts of Manipur progressively.

Soldiers operating in areas where the AFSPA is in place cannot be prosecuted without the permission of the central government. Applications seeking permission to prosecute are almost always rejected, and sometimes remain pending for years. The panel recommended that the central government be given three months to respond to requests for prosecution, failing which it would be presumed to have granted permission to prosecute.

Amnesty International India welcomes the findings of the Supreme Court-appointed panel, but urges authorities to go beyond its recommendations and repeal the AFSPA in Manipur and elsewhere. The AFSPA has provided impunity for perpetrators of grave human rights violations for decades. Its continued operation in any form will allow human rights violations to continue.

In Manipur, impunity is endemic and authorities take little to no action to investigate and prosecute allegations of rights violations by security forces. A special investigation team comprising senior police officers from outside the state should be formed to conduct prompt and full investigations into all 1,528 cases of alleged extrajudicial executions brought before the Supreme Court by local groups.

Where sufficient admissible evidence is found, suspects – including those with command responsibility – should be prosecuted in fair and speedy trials meeting international standards in a civilian court, regardless of the time that has lapsed since the crime occurred. The families of the victims should receive adequate reparation, including compensation.

Amnesty International India urges both state and central authorities to heed the panel’s recommendations to bolster the Manipur police and Criminal Investigation Department in six months time in order to conduct thorough, impartial and effective investigations into all future cases of alleged extrajudicial executions in Manipur.

Authorities must apply procedures laid down by India’s National Human Rights Commission in cases of deaths caused in the course of police, army or other security personnel action, and follow the UN Principles and Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

The Government of India must also act on the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and set up a credible commission of inquiry into extrajudicial executions throughout India.

Background

Impunity in cases of extrajudicial killings is a matter of grave concern in Manipur and some other parts of India. In his comments after visiting India in 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns observed that “Impunity for extrajudicial executions is the central problem. This gives perpetrators a free rein, and leaves victims in a situation where they either are left helpless, or have to retaliate.”

The National Human Rights Commission has itself on occasion said “extrajudicial executions have become virtually a part of state policy.”

The AFSPA, which has been in force in parts of Northeastern India since 1958, and a virtually identical law (The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990) in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990, provide sweeping powers to soldiers, including the power to use lethal force against any person contravening laws or orders, and to prevent the assembly of five or more persons.

The law has provided impunity for perpetrators of grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture and other ill-treatment, and excessive use of force.

The AFSPA falls far short of international standards, including provisions of treaties to which India is a state party, and is inconsistent with India’s international legal obligations to respect and protect the rights to life, liberty and security of person, to freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, and to an effective remedy.

Several UN bodies and experts, including the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, have stated that the AFSPA must be repealed.

A number of Indian bodies, including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Committee to review the AFSPA and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir, have also urged the repeal of the law. The Justice Verma Committee, set up to review laws against sexual assault, said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimized impunity for sexual violence.

ENDS

Public document
****************************************
For more information please call Amnesty International India in Bangalore at (080) 49388000 or email Amnesty International at [email protected]

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Amnesty asks India to commute Guru’s death sentence #deathpenalty

BJP wants Afzal Guru hanged next

 

London, December 14 (KMS: The human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has expressed concern over the fate of mercy petitions including that of a Kashmir youth, Afzal Guru whose sentence, according to the Amnesty, by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law.

Amnesty International Chief Executive, G Anantha Padmanabhan in a letter to the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, on Thursday asked New Delhi to abolish death penalty and stop further executions after Ajmal Kasab and commute death sentences to imprisonments.

Referring to the execution of Ajmal Kasab, the Amnesty chief executive said that “by executing him, the Indian government has violated the internationally recognized right to life and signalled a step away from the regional and global trends towards abolition of the death penalty.”

Anantha Padmanabhan said Amnesty is concerned about the manner in which Indian authorities carried out Kasab’s execution on 21 November, 2012. “A notification by Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, published on the same day, stated that you had rejected his petition for mercy on 5 November”.

“According to reports, Ajmal Kasab himself was only informed of this rejection on 12 November. It is unclear whether he was aware of possibility of seeking a review of the decision. Information about the rejection of the petition for mercy and the date of execution was not made available to the public until after the execution had been carried out. Authorities in India have made public claims that this lack of public announcement and secrecy surrounding the execution were to avoid intervention by human rights activists,” he said.

“Transparency on use of death penalty is among fundamental safeguards of due process that prevent the arbitrary deprivation of life. Making information public with regard to legislation providing for the death penalty as well as its implementation allows for an assessment of whether fair trial and other international standards are being respected. In resolution 2005/59, adopted on 20 April 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights called upon all states that still maintain the death penalty “to make available to the public information with regard to the imposition of the death penalty and to any scheduled execution,” the Amnesty official added.

“Amnesty is disappointing that the Indian State has chosen to carry out Ajmal Kasab’s execution in this manner,” he said.

“Amnesty is concerned about a further nine petitions for mercy involving 14 individuals that have been sent to the (Indian) Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration for a second time, which we understand is usual practice when there is a new minister in office. On December 10, 2012, Indian Home Minister told reporters he will review the petitions before him after the end of the winter session of Parliament. One of these petitions concerns Mohammad Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 Parliament attack. Mohammad Afzal Guru was tried by a special court under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Amnesty has found that these trials did not conform with India’s obligations under international human rights law,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said Amnesty opposes death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. “It opposes it as a violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

He said the use of death penalty in India is riddled with systemic flaws. Of particular concern are: the broad definition of “terrorist acts” for which the death penalty can be imposed; insufficient safeguards on arrest; obstacles to confidential communication with counsel; insufficient independence of special courts from executive power; insufficient safeguards for the presumption of innocence; provisions for discretionary closed trials; sweeping provisions to keep secret the identity of witnesses; and limits on the right to review by a higher tribunal.

“On behalf of Amnesty International, I urge Indian president to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment Immediately halt plans to carry out further executions, and establish an official moratorium on executions as the first step to abolishing the death penalty,” Anantha Padmanabhan said.

He said wherever mercy petitions have been rejected, the government should respect the practice of promptly informing the individual, his/ her lawyers, his/ her family, of the decision, reasons for the decision, and proposed date of execution, as well as the public, of any scheduled execution.

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India: Vedanta’s human rights promises ‘meaningless and hollow’

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Amnesty International has accused the UK-registered mining company Vedanta of attempting to “gloss over” criticisms of its poor human rights record in the East Indian state of Orissa by publishing a “meaningless and hollow” report that puts forward the company’s own account of its operations there.

With the company staging its annual general meeting today (28 August) in London, Amnesty believes the “Vedanta’s Perspective” report is an attempt to calm investor fears over its controversial operations in India as it seeks to expand them.

Amnesty International has responded with its own briefing, Vedanta’s Perspective Uncovered: Policies Cannot Mask Practices, accusing the company of ignoring the reality of the mining giant’s impact on the human rights of local communities in Orissa.

For example, Amnesty International reports that Vedanta has not disclosed relevant information to local communities – such as the impact of pollution caused by the company’s activities, and has not held meaningful public consultations.

“Our new briefing exposes the glaring gap between the company’s assertions and the reality on the ground,” said Polly Truscott, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme.

“New evidence from the communities in Orissa shows that changes announced by Vedanta have had little positive impact on the livelihoods, rights, and other concerns of the communities on the ground.

“Vedanta’s human rights record falls far short of international standards for businesses. It refuses to consult properly with communities affected by its operations and ignores the rights of Indigenous peoples.

“Vedanta’s report claims to put new information on its activities in the public domain, but it glosses over most of our findings. It also fails to take into account investigations by Indian regulatory bodies, as well as authorities such as the National Human Rights Commission which has investigated Vedanta’s operations in Orissa.”

Amnesty International also finds it disturbing that those opposed to the company’s operations have faced fabricated charges, resulting in their imprisonment with the effect of preventing others from exercising their right to protest peacefully and freely express their views.

Amnesty International is also concerned about evidence, uncovered during an ongoing inquiry by India’s National Human Rights Commission, showing that police have sought to promote the interests of the company both in the framing of false charges and in the suppression of dissent.

Additionally, there have been at least two instances when the police, using a local Maoist presence as an apparent pretext, have harassed representatives of international media and human rights organisations and told them not to travel to Lanjigarh and the Niyamgiri Hills.

Amnesty International reviewed Vedanta’s changes against four criteria based on the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principles for businesses – and found that they failed on all four.

“The most revealing and meaningful indicators of whether Vedanta is making progress in addressing human rights issues must be based on what is happening, or not happening, on the ground in Lanjigarh and Niyamgiri,” said Truscott.

“Our detailed analysis shows little has changed. Vedanta may be making the right noises and have made a few changes, but the reality is that its new approach remains both meaningless and hollow. The company needs to go much further in demonstrating to its critics that its new approach will make a difference . Vedanta needs a reality check on human rights – and pressure from investors could help deliver this.”

On reports that Vedanta may have to temporarily shut down its Lanjigarh refinery for want of adequate bauxite supply from other sources, Truscott said: “This may be a short-term problem. What’s really at stake here is Vedanta’s human rights record.”

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