Appeal to urge the government of India and government of Manipur to protect the human rights of all human rights defenders of Manipur

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    Nature of incident: Continued pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders of Manipur, NE India

    Identification of Victim:  Mr. Jiten Yumnam, an environmentalist and free lance journalist

    Date of Incident:  3 October 2013

    Identification of Perpetrator: Manipur Police Commandoes, Imphal West, Government of Manipur

    Place of Incident:  Imphal, Manipur

    Source of Appeal: Citizens Concern for Dams and Development, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur, North East Dialogue Forum, Centre for Research and Advocacy.

    Detailed Description of Incident:  The targetting of human rights defenders and their organizations for their efforts to promote the right to life, justice remedy, to promote just and participatory forms of development etc in Manpur continues to be a serious form of human rights violations.

    On 2 October 2013, around 4: 30 PM, police commando personnel of Imphal West District, Manipur came to the residence of Mr. Jiten Yumnam, a renowned environmentalist and human rights defender of Manipur during his absence and asked him to appear before the Manipur Police Commando Complex at Minuthong, Imphal West District to two of his aunties, who were present around that time.

    There were neither letters of summon, nor reasons stated as to why Mr. Yumnam have to be present nor the identities of the police commandoes were revealed. Strangely, the police commandoes assured his family members nothing will happen to him and there’s nothing to worry about. Mr. Yumnam’s family members were already worried as there’s a lot of uncertainties when it comes to dealing with the Manipur Police commandoes and as Mr. Yumnam had already been subjected to torture and arbitrary detention earlier in the year 2009 in their hands. The worry is heightened by the larger common people’s perception of the role and conduct of the Manipur police commandoes, especially during the height of the fake encounter killings in its active counter insurgency operations from the year 2006 till 2010 and the unresolved accountability and justice delivery issues.

    Mr. Yumnam was earlier arrested by the Manipur Police Commandoes on 14 September 2009 for his involvement in community response to an incident of fake encounter killing of two people by the Manipur Police commandoes on a broad day light on 23 July 2009 and had experienced torture, electric shocks on the day of arrest and later arbitrary detention and confinement for four months from September 2009 till early January 2010.  Mr. Yumnam was released unconditionally from Sajiwa Jail on 7 January 2010 and all cases against them under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Indian Penal Code etc were all withdrawn after an agreement with the Chief Minister, Government of Manipur and the groups leading the protest against fake encounter killings of Mr. Shanjit and Ms. Rebina on 23 July 2009 on account of the Government conceding to conduct a CBI enquiry into the infamous incident.

    When Mr Yumnam went to the Manipur Police Commando complex, Minuthong on 3rd October 2013, around 9:45 A.M, a brief statement of his basic profile and work activities in recent years were recorded by a junior official of Police commando. No harsh interrogation, no blindfolding, no handcuff, no threatening words were treated as had experienced before in the September 2009 in the initial days of his arrest. No reasons of his summon were also provided and entertained to him. There are indications and informal reports that Mr. Yumnam has been listed in the Government records as a member of armed opposition groups of Manipur demanding ultimate political rights of Manipur.  As he is neither a member of such organizations nor aware of his membership, he’s all the more concerned that he can be falsely targeted at any time with all false reasons.

    What concerns him the most is when the police personnel taking his statement, asked him to put down his permanent phone number and to make himself present as and whenever required at Commando complex, outside the ambit of legal procedure? Notwithstanding the continued monitoring, Mr. Yumnam’s life and future seems to lie in the hands of the Police commandoes and at their mercy.  The statement taken on 3rd October also referred Mr. Yumnam as a “Bailed Out”, despite the fact that all pending cases against him were withdrawn in 2009 after their unconditional release.

    A continued monitoring and summon of human rights defenders by the Manipur police commandoes without any legal sanction and procedures is a clear human rights violations and can be a source and process of continued physical, mental and psychological harassment and disturbance in one’s life and normal work activities and to their families.  Such arbitrary summon procedures is a another form of ill treatment and harassment and constitutes a form of torture and a direct infringement of one’s right to life and personal integrity There is serious need to address the insecurity and continued intimidations on human rights defenders in Manipur. There is no legality and protection mechanism for human rights defender to seek rights and justice, whenever there’s a violation, of ill treatment, of harassment etc. And a serious matter of concern is that the situation of Manipur might change anytime and the state machinery might intensify its killing process with little protection and with full immunity.

    The landmark Judgement of DK Basu vs. Government of West Bengal in 1996, observed that there can be no summoning of innocent people without warrant or letter of summon. Moreover, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and UN SR on Indigenous Peoples jointly intervened on Mr. Yumnam’s behalf and recommended the Government of India in October 2009 to stop targetting all human rights defenders of Manipur, and specifically to protect Mr. Yumnam’s life and physical integrity.

    The National Human Rights Commission has a strong obligation to protect the rights of human rights defenders. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Margaret Saggakya, also, during her visit to India in February 2011, also urged upon all concerned authorities in India to promote the right and secure protection of all human rights defenders in its territories and to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, 1999.

    The role and responsibility human rights defenders are highly crucial in determining the nature and quality of life of peoples and communities worldwide, especially those in conflict and post conflict situations. Targetting human rights defenders for their human rights work is classified as another serious forms of human rights violations, denounced worldwide, including by India’s own National Human Rights Institutions and the United Nations human rights bodies and other Humanitarian Laws.

    All right thinking people and all those upholding democratic values should support the role and importance of human rights defenders in a conflict afflict places like Manipur with series of recorded patterns of violations amidst persistence of emergency laws, especially the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.  Also in a fast unfolding situation of development onslaught, where there’s an exclusionary processes with those pursuing development and the affected communities, the human rights defenders, in both situations, assumes a key responsibility and leadership in fostering a respect of democratic values, of culture of rights and respect and of finding solutions to seek social, economic and environmental justice and to an extent political justice as well.

    It is a matter of urgency to take all necessary measures to guarantee that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of harassment and threat of torture and deprivation of their right to life.  And it is extremely crucial to repeal and review all emergency laws, which has an impact on the security and life of human rights defenders and other innocent people of Manipur. All enabling environment for safe working environment of human rights defenders need be fully secured. Falsely implicating human rights defenders as members of non state actors should urgently and immediately stopped in Manipur.

    The non-functioning of the Manipur Human Rights Commission, due to non appointment of its members by the Government of Manipur, makes it extremely difficult to seek immediate redressal mechanisms for cases of violations, especially for human rights defenders. The sorry state of affair with Manipur Human Rights commission is something that requires an urgent intervention, towards promoting human rights in Manipur. The National Human Rights Commission should take an extra initiative to monitor and respond to all cases of human rights violations in Manipur, including the violations on human rights defenders as the State HR commission ceased to function for long.

    It is high time also for the Government of Manipur to fully implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in 2011 and to set up a policy for the protection of human rights defenders. The Government of Manipur should refrain from targetting all human rights defenders of Manipur, including Mr. Jiten Yumnam and ensure their rightful protection. The protection of all civilians as outlined in common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions should be upheld in Manipur.

    Please write to the following officials to stop targetting human rights defenders and to protect their human rights in Manipur:

    1. The Prime Minister of India,
      South Block, Raisina Hill,
      New Delhi, 110 101 INDIA
      Tel: +91 11 2301 2312
      Fax: +91 11 2301 9545 / 11 2301 6857
    2. The Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India, Tilak Marg, New Delhi-110 001 (India)
      e-mail at: supremecourt@nic.in, FAX NOS.23381508,23381584,23384336/23384533/23384447
    3. Ms. Shelja Kumari
      Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
      Government of India, Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road
      New Delhi – 110 001 INDIA  Fax + 91 11 23384918
      E-mail: min-sje@sb.nic.in
    4. Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
      Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
      New Delhi-110001  INDIA Fax: +91 11 23340016
      E-mail: chairhrc@nic.in
    5. Mr Okram Ibobi Singh
      Chief Minister of Manipur
      New Secretariat Building
      Bapupara, Imphal, Manipur  INDIA
      Fax: +91 385 2451398
      E-mail: cmmani@hub.nic.in