• UN expert calls for protection of human rights defenders

    Babu Thomas

    A United Nations human rights expert has called on India to ensure a safe 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,” expressed United Nations Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggy at the end of her fact-finding mission to India 

    Sekaggya last week travelled to Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Srinagar and across Delhi to assess the situation of human rights defenders. 

    At a press meet in the capital, Sekaggya called for the repeal of security laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which she said affects the safety and work of human rights defenders. 

    “I am deeply concerned about the arbitrary application of security laws at the national and state levels in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-east of India,” she said. 

    In her recommendations to the government, Sekaggya said that the security forces should be instructed and sensitised to respect the work of the human rights defenders. 

    She also said that the draft Bill on Prevention Against Torture should be adopted “without further delay”, as reported by the IANS. 

    “The state and national human rights commission should set up a 24-hour toll free helpline number for human rights defenders,” she suggested. 

    On the arrest and conviction of rights activist Binayak Sen, she said the UN body had been monitoring the progress of the proceedings. 

    Sekaggya said she will submit her full report with conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council by March 2012. 

    According to sources, this was the first time a Special Rapporteur has been given permission by the Centre to study the human rights situation in the country. 

    Christian Today India
    January 29, 2011

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