Sunday, February 22, 2015

Human Rights Watch demands: Stop politically-motivated intimidation of Teesta Setalvad

By Our Representative
Top US-based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has asked the "authorities" in India to immediately end "politically motivated" intimidation and harassment of activists who have been pursuing justice for victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state. In a statement, HRW said, "While all NGOs should fully adhere to financial regulations, the Gujarat police has been acting to "undermine the human rights work of the activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand."
Giving full marks to Setalvad for her work in "supporting the riot victims and for seeking criminal charges against scores of officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for his alleged involvement in the riots as the state’s chief minister in 2002", the HRW suggested this is the main reason for the Gujarat police accusing the activists of "misusing" the funds donated to their NGOs, Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust. "The disputed fund transfers were used to reimburse them for legitimate work-related expenses", it underlined.
“The activists have agreed to cooperate though they believe the allegations are politically motivated. The Gujarat authorities should not use laws to sweep away serious human rights concerns,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “Attempts to harass or discredit activists will not make the massive abuses during the 2002 Gujarat violence disappear."
"Gujarat officials have stalled efforts to investigate and prosecute riot cases, harassed and intimidated activists and lawyers involved, and in some instances obstructed justice", the HRW alleged, adding, "Following appeals by activists' and victims’ families, the Supreme Court ordered re-investigations, oversaw independent inquiries in some cases, or shifted trials out of Gujarat to ensure that they would be fair."
Pointing out that so far over a 120 people have been convicted for their role in the riots, including a member of the Gujarat state cabinet, the HRW said,in 2012 a Supreme Court-ordered investigation may have decided that there was not enough evidence to prove Modi’s direct complicity , yet the fact is that an amicus curiae – friend of the court – appointed by the court to monitor the process "concluded instead that Modi’s role should be investigated further on several counts".
Referring to a key witness whose testimony was dismissed by the investigation team, the amicus curiae noted that “the stage for believing or disbelieving a witness arises after trial i.e. once the entire evidence is placed before the court for its consideration”, said the HRW.
"Authorities in Gujarat had filed charges against Setalvad twice before, but the Supreme Court rejected them. In 2004, she was accused of coercing a witness into giving false evidence; in 2010, she was accused of illegally exhuming the bodies of riot victims," HRW said, adding, “Justice for India’s terrible tragedies, whether the 2002 Gujarat riots or the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, won’t happen so long as the authorities place roadblocks in the way".

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