Friday, February 10, 2017

UP govt "failed" to provide justice to Muzaffarnagar rape victims: UK-based NGO Amnesty's mid-poll report

By Our Representative
Amidst indications that the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance may win the Uttar Pradesh elections, top UK-based human rights organization Amnesty International has reminded chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s SP government that even three years after Muzaffarnagar riots, “no justice in sight for gang-rape survivors”.
In a report just published by it, Amnesty has said that the UP government has “failed to expeditiously investigate and prosecute the seven cases of gang-rape filed after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and deliver justice”.
The report, titled “Losing Faith: The Muzaffarnagar Gang-rape Survivors’ Struggle for Justice”, details the cases of seven Muslim women who came forward after the September 2013 riots to report that they had been gang-raped, all by men from the Jat community.
Over three years after the riots, the report says, the there has not been “a single conviction in any of the cases”, adding, “Despite changes to India’s laws in 2013 requiring trials in rape cases to be completed without unnecessary delay, trials have proceeded extremely slowly.”
Particularly taking on the state government and successive central governments for failing to “adequately protect the survivors from threats and harassment”, which has led them to retract their statements, on one hand, and get adequate reparation, the report states, “In all seven gang-rape cases, the police took months to file charges, and even after they did so, trials have proceeded extremely slowly.”
Amnesty has been in the forefront of criticizing the Government of India for cancelling the foreign funding licenses of several NGOs. In a joint statement, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW)  demanded in NOvember that the government should show how these restrictions are necessary and also repeal or amend the FCRA.
Calling it the UP government’s failure, Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty International India, says “The government’s apparent lack of interest in delivering justice also goes against the spirit of the legal reforms passed in 2013 to end impunity for violence against women.”
“The new government in Uttar Pradesh, which will take office in March, must ensure that the investigations and prosecutions in all the cases are pursued vigorously without undue delay, and that survivors are provided full reparation”, Amnesty demands.
The report is based on Amnesty’s interview with six of the gang rape survivors at a briefing on the riots. These victims filed FIRs between July 2016 and January 2017. “We are still scared when we leave home,” the report quotes one of the survivors as telling Amnesty.
“Even where the police filed charges – which took between six and 14 months in most cases – the trials did not commence immediately”, Amnesty regrets, adding, “In three cases, survivors identified and named the men they said had raped them in their FIRs, but then retracted their statements in court.”
“Some of them later admitted that they had been compelled to do so after facing pressure and threats to their safety and that of their families, and a lack of adequate support and security from the authorities”, the report underlines.
Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover, who has represented the survivors in the Supreme Court, is quoted as saying that while the victims are being told “stand up in court in a rape trial, and give evidence”, but in the process the victims’ life, or the life of their children or other family members is put at stake.
Pointing towards state police indifference, the report says, initially it did not invoke Section 376(2)(g) of the Indian Penal Code, which specifically recognizes the offence of rape during communal or sectarian violence, in the FIRs registered in September and October 2013 and February 2014.
“There were also delays in filing FIRs, conducting medical examinations and recording the statements of the survivors before a magistrate”, the report insists, adding, “All seven survivors have received little assistance from authorities in helping them rebuild their lives despite suffering enormous damage to their livelihoods.”

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