The United Nations Human Rights Office of High Commissioner (OHCHR) has taken strong exception to “extrajudicial killings” in Uttar Pradesh, pointing out that most of those who have killed are poor Muslims. It has also expressed “serious concern” about family members of victims and human rights defenders working on the cases being “harassed, subjected to death threats from police and false criminal cases” in an attempts to “intimidate them”.
In a statement, OHCHR that that four UN human rights experts — Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief — have written to the Government of India on this.
According to the statement, the Supreme Court of India laid down guidelines on investigating killings in People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) vs state of Maharashtra (2014) 10 SCC 635, pointing out that the 15 cases raised by the Special Rapporteurs concern Gurmeet Singh, Naushad, Sarvar, Ikram, Mohammad Nadeem, Jaan Mohammad, Shamshaad, Muhammad Mansoor, Waseem Kala, Sumit Kumar, Aslam, Ramzani, Shamim, Akbar, and Noor Muhammad.
The threats or harassment against family members include Anwar (brother of Sarvar), Hanifa (wife of Ikram), Sajid (Mr. Ikram’s son), Feroz (Jaan Mohammad’s brother), Mustakeem (Waseem’s father), as well as family members of victims Gurmeet Singh, Nadeem, Muhammad Mansoor, Sumit Kumar, Shamim and Akbar.
The threats against HRDs include Rajeev Yadav and Akram Akhtar Chaudhary, OHCHR adds.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
Text of the statement:
UN human rights experts have expressed alarm about allegations of at least 59 extrajudicial killings by police in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017. India’s Supreme Court is scheduled to consider several of the cases on 14 January 2019.
The experts have sent detailed information to the Indian Government on 15 of the cases, most concerning individuals from Muslim communities living in poverty. They have yet to receive a response to their letter.
Evidence indicates the killings took place in police custody. In all of the cases, the police said the killings were during encounters and in self-defence.
“We are extremely concerned about the pattern of events: individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture,” the UN experts said.
They also expressed concerns that the Supreme Court’s guidelines on investigations were not followed. This included police failing to inform family members of the killings, to conduct examinations of the scene, to provide copies of post-mortem reports to families, and to transfer cases to an independent investigative agency.
“We have also received allegations of corruption including the police demanding money to release the victim prior to the killing,” added the experts.
They expressed serious concerns about reports that family members of victims and human rights defenders working on the cases have been harassed, subjected to death threats from police and had false criminal cases brought against them in apparent attempts to intimidate them.
“Unfortunately we are continuing to receive reports of other similar cases of killings as well as threats and harassment,” the experts said. “These are extremely serious allegations requiring immediate action.”
They called for an urgent review of the use of force by Uttar Pradesh police to ensure all law enforcement operations were conducted in compliance with international standards, for prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of potentially unlawful killings and for perpetrators to be prosecuted.
“Family members of victims and human rights defenders must also be protected from reprisals, and threats and harassment against them investigated,” the experts said.
They also highlighted their concern over statements issued by high ranking state government and police officials seeming to incite, justify or sanction killings.
The National Human Rights Commission of India opened an investigation on May 9, 2018 into 18 deaths, including those raised by the experts, which is ongoing. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a request for a court monitored investigation into the killings by an independent bod