Saturday, November 28, 2015

India doesn't need new legal mechanism to "protect" human rights defenders, UN General Assembly told

By Our Representative
India has told the United Nations (UN) general assembly that it is in no mood to have any new mechanism for protecting human rights defenders or change the present legislative framework, which refuses to protect them. India’s view came even as human rights organizations across India have been feeling increasing signs of intolerance and attacks on human rights defenders under the Modi regime.
Top human rights organization Amnesty International reports that India is among the countries that voted for the adoption of the resolution on human rights defenders, but “stressed” that it does not feel it necessary to not create “any new obligations at national level”. India noted that “sufficient legislative framework was available to all citizens, including the ones defending human rights”, said a UN report.
Demands have been raised in India to repeal legislations which are misused against human rights defenders such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), the sedition law (section 124A of the Indian Penal Code), as also some state laws of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir. The apex body of several mass organizations, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has demanded that Parliament enact of a comprehensive legislation protecting the human rights defenders and whistle blowers, who are “always at the receiving end for seeking execution of constitutional rights and demanding accountability from the State”.
The UN General Assembly Third Committee on November 27 adopted a resolution on human rights defenders by a recorded vote, at the request of China and Russia. Earlier, on November 24, over 150 NGOs, including those from India, raised concern about the substance of this unprecedented number of amendments, designed to weaken this important resolution.
China and Russia were joined by 12 other States – Burundi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe – in voting against the resolution. Additionally, 40 member-states abstained in the vote. The resolution was adopted, with 117 UN Member States voting in favour of the text.
Even as the resolution was passed, a new research paper released by Routledge, a British multinational publisher, pointed out that human rights defenders “continue to be attacked, even in countries where they have legally enforceable rights to promote and protect human rights”.
It said, “National laws and administrative practices that criminalize defenders have been justified by some states in terms of their measures to protect national sovereignty; counter terrorism and extremism; further economic security and development; and assert particular cultural, traditional and religious norms and practices.”
“In India”, it underlined, “Every NGO receiving funds from ‘foreign sources’ requires either prior permission or registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 2010. This legislation has been used to target those dissenting from the economic model pursued by successive governments that violates the human rights of Adivasi tribal peoples and other communities.”
Pointing out that “increasingly human rights defenders find their recognition by and access to the UN under attack”, the paper said, this is not just true of states such as China and Eritrea “that see any form of civic protest or challenge to state authority as anathema to social and political stability, but by democratic states with growing geopolitical influence, such as South Africa and India.”
Meanwhile, an Amnesty International India workshop in Raigarh with human rights defenders working in coal mining areas in Chattisgarh, also held on the same day, highlighted how they had suffered violations of their free prior informed consent and/or arrested or threatened with criminalization by local authorities.
“Human rights defenders denounce abuse, injustice and discrimination, and call for accountability. Rather than being supported, they are in many places defamed, fined, obstructed, criminalized, imprisoned, ‘disappeared’ and killed for their work in raising awareness and concern about human rights issues”, Amnesty said.

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