Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PUCL Urges Inquiry in the Case of Human Rights Defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand

The following is the text of the PUCL petition to NHRC in the case of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and the Citizens for Justice and Peace
270-A, Patpar Ganj, Opposite Anand Lok Apartments, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110 091 Phone 2275 0014 PP FAX 4215 1459 Founder: Jayaprakash Narayan; Founding President: V M Tarkunde President: Prof. Prabhakar Sinha; General Secretary: Dr. V. Suresh
7th June, 2014
Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C, GPO Complex,
INA, New Delhi – 110023

A. Introduction and Background
1. The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has been consistently working for protecting and upholding the human rights as well as civil liberties of the people and has been intervening before this Hon’ble Commission and the Courts. Under the International Human Rights Principles, it is duty of every State to protect the human rights defenders. In fact, it is right and responsibility of every individual, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms. The UN Declaration of protecting human rights defenders was adopted by UN General Assembly in 2013 urging the States to acknowledge publicly the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders and the promotion of Human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this regard, we may also refer to the report of the UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya on human rights defenders, (2013) which was presented before the UN Human Rights Council wherein the obligation cast on the Member States was highlighted to ensure that Human Rights Defenders can conduct their work in a peaceful manner and that no administrative and legislative provisions are used to restrict the rights of defenders in order to show respect to the International Human Rights Law.
2. This Hon’ble Commission has adopted, among others, the following recommendation regarding human rights defenders in October, 2009:
“(i) It is the obligation of the State to protect human rights of all. Individuals, groups or associations who work for promotion and protection of human rights, commonly referred to as Human Rights Defenders, should also be provided protection by the State against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any arbitrary action as a consequence of their activities for promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom. NHRC and SHRCs can also play an important role in this regard.”
It is in this context that the PUCL is concerned about the prosecution and persecution of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and others of the Citizens for Peace and Justice, who had taken up the issues of the victims of Gujarat riots which took place in the year 2002. It was their intervention before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and other courts which ultimately led to over 110 conviction so far with other trials nearing completion. It was this Hon’ble Commission which had challenged the acquittals of all the accused in Best Bakery Case before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and had sought transfer of important cases outside the State of Gujarat; the Citizen for Justice and Peace was also one of the Petitioners in the case. The Best Bakery case was transferred to Mumbai and eventually the trial court has convicted 9 persons. The efforts made by them are required to be appreciated as they acted for defending and protecting the gross human rights violations of the victims of 2002 riots. It is the duty of the State of Gujarat and all its administrative organs to protect Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand & others of CJP in defending the legal constitutional and human rights of the victims of Gujarat Riots and to provide them protection as envisaged in the United National Human Rights Documents, which is also endorsed by this Hon’ble Commission.
B. International and National Human Rights Obligations
3. As stated earlier under international human rights principles there is a duty cast upon every State to accord adequate protection to human rights defenders. The United Nations “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (March, 1999) acknowledges that human rights defenders play a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights and it is the duty of every State and its administrators to avoid criminalisation, stigmatisation, impediments, obstructions or restrictions on the work of human rights defenders. The UN expressed its grave concern that in some instances national security and counter terrorism and other measures have been misused to target human rights defenders or have hindered their work and endangered their safety contrary to international law.
4. Art. 18 of this Declaration stresses that “individuals, groups, institutions and non-governmental organisations have an important role to play and a responsibility in safeguarding democracy, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms and contributing to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes”.
5. The UN Declaration on Protecting Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013 urged States to acknowledge publicly the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law. The declaration also urges States to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to extend support free from hindrance and insecurity. The Declaration specifically called upon States to ensure procedural safeguards are in place, including in criminal cases, against human rights defenders … so as “to avoid the use of unreliable evidence, unwarranted investigations and procedural delays”.
a. Report of the UN Special Rapporteur... read more