The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns completed his mission to India on 30 March 2012 and issued an official press release as a current method of work practice of his mandate set by his predecessors. Acknowledging the huge diversity of India in terms of religion, languages and culture, and India’s federal structure, he said that “[t]he challenge to protect, promote and respect the right to life (in India) is undeniably a real one. It is of concern however that despite constitutional guarantees and a robust human rights jurisprudence, extrajudicial killings is a matter of serious concern in India.” Emphasising that the “solutions to these issues largely lies within the system itself”, he elaborated on his concerns, shared his conclusions and presented his provisional recommendations.
His concerns regarding unlawful killings, both in terms of prevention and accountability, focused on the use of force of State actors and non-state actors, systemic challenges, and the role of human rights institutions.
The use of excessive force by the police attracted special attention. The statement mentioned that salutary guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court “are not sufficiently complied with.” Statutory immunity that restrict accountability aggravate the problems and the practice of “fake encounters” has developed in parts of the country, the statement added. Reported deaths in police and judicial custody in India were one of the major concerns, often in the context of torture. He expressed his hopes that the proposed legislation underway to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) would be compliant with the UN treaty’s provisions.
Prof Heyns’ statement dwelt on the issue of the Armed Forces deployed in the so-called ‘disturbed areas’ in the North East and in Jammu and Kashmir. He gave elaborate attention to the question of the long-term application of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in these parts of the country. He emphatically and unequivocally stated that “such a law as AFSPA has no role to play in a democracy and should be scrapped.” Stating that the Act clearly violated international law, he said “the widespread deployment of the military as a primary response to conflict with a concomitant permissive approach…of the use of lethal force…is difficult to reconcile in the long run with India’s insistence that it is not engaged in armed conflict.”
A number of systemic challenges were mentioned in his statement. The issues of delayed justice, awarding alleged perpetrators,compensation instead of prosecution, burdening the victim to initiate civil, criminal or writ proceedings, emphasis on juridical form over real practice, statutory immunity, lack of protection of witnesses, the weak role of human rights institutions, etc. were some key aspects of his concerns. The question of impunity encouraged by legal and juridical shortcomings was also an identified concern and challenge.
Significantly, Prof Heyns proposed a national Commission of Inquiry, that is credible and inspires the confidence of the people, to inquire into extrajudicial executions in India to be appointed by the government which also serves a transitional justice role. The Commission has to be required to complete its work within a reasonably short period. Such a Commission, he suggested, should “inquire into past violations, propose where relevant measures to deal with those, and work out a plan of action for the future to eradicate practices of extrajudicial executions. The Commission must submit recommendations on legal reform, and the reform of state structures, security apparatus and processes that encourage impunity.”
His provisional recommendations covered a range of issues. including the repeal of AFSPA and the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1990 in order to send a powerful signal about the State’s commitment to a new dispensation.
PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE FULL PRESS RELEASE
Please click on link to see the entire CSCHR memorandum submitted to Prof. Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions during is visit to Guwahati, Assam on 28th March 2012.
“Extra-judicial executions is used to refer to executions other than those carried out by the State in conformity with the law.” (Philip G. Alston, 2009 – former Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions)
A high-level consultation was held on Sunday, 18th March 2012 at Imphal to bring together prominent jurists, lawyers, forensic scientists and media persons with members of the coalition. The consultation focussed on the framework of the memorandum being prepared to be submitted to Prof. Christof Heynes, the present mandate holder of the UN Human Rights Council’s special thematic procedure on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions who is visiting India on a country mission from 19-30 March 2012.
The critical concern pre-occupying Manipur is the issue of extremely high frequency of sudden and unnatural deaths suspected to have occurred in custody and other forms of killings as a result of excessive use of force by the security forces and law enforcement officials in Manipur under de jure (AFSPA) and de facto impunity.
CSCHR is preparing a detailed memorandum elaborating on the issue of suspected extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in Manipur for the forthcoming civil society consultation the UN Special Rapporteur at Guwahati, Assam on Wednesday, 28th March 2012. The memorandum is being developed through a series of consultative meetings of the CSCHR from January 2012.
Broadly speaking, the term “extrajudicial executions” covers killings which violate human rights or humanitarian law. Common forms include, for instance: killing as a result of the excessive use of force by police; indiscriminate killings of civilians during an armed conflict; or murder by State security forces or paramilitary groups, when these are not adequately investigated, prosecuted or punished. The former Special Rapporteur, Prof. Philip G. Alston further elaborated that the mandate “may include unlawful killings by the police, deaths in military or civilian custody, killings of civilians in armed conflict in violation of humanitarian law, and patterns of killings by private individuals which are not adequately investigated and prosecuted by the authorities.”
The role of the mandate-holder is to respond to cases of extrajudicial executions around the world by holding Governments to account. The Special Rapporteur carries out this mandate through correspondence with governments and through fact-finding visits to countries where significant problems of extrajudicial executions are alleged or identified (past missions have included Guatemala, Israel, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Brazil, Afghanistan, and the United States of America). Country fact-finding missions and correspondence serve to clarify past violations, alert Governments to their legal obligations, and provide guidance on the measures required to prevent future violations. In this context, Prof. Christof Heynes’ official visit to India is an extremely significant one.
Prof. Christof Heynes holds the degrees of MA, LLB University of Pretoria; LLM Yale Law School; and PhD University of the Witwatersrand. He is Professor of Human Rights Law and co-Director of the Institute for International and Comparative law in Africa at the University of Pretoria. In August 2010, he was appointed as UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. He is an adjunct professor at the Washington College of Law of the American University in Washington DC, USA, and a visiting fellow at Kellog College at Oxford University, UK, where he has been teaching in the Masters’ programme since 2005.
He is the former Director of the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, as well as Former Dean of that Faculty. He has published widely in the field of international human rights law, including the book The Impact of the United Nations Human Rights Treaties on the Domestic Level (with Frans Viljoen) and especially in human rights law in Africa (including the book Human Rights Law in Africa). He is the founding editor in chief of the African Human Rights Law Reports and was the founding co-editor of the African Human Rights Law Journal and serves on the editorial boards of academic law journals in the UK, France, Brazil, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Uganda. He has served as consultant to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (inter alia on the establishment of a regional human rights system in South East Asia), the African Union and the South African Human Rights Commission.
His publications have appeared in English, Afrikaans, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Arabic. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship (to Yale Law School) and Humboldt Fellowship (to the Max Planck Institute for International and Comparative Public Law in Heidelberg, Germany), as well the University of Pretoria’s Chancellor’s Award for Teaching and Learning. He is currently a Fulbright Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Law School.
CSCHR nominee is National Focal Point for India of the Commonwealth Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Rights (CIPLC Rights)
The Secretariat of the Commonwealth Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities Rights (CIPLC Rights) has registered Mr. Jiten Yumnam, Joint Secretary of the Citizens Concern for Dams and Development (CCDD) based in Manipur in India’s North East, a key constituent member of CSCHR, as National Focal Point for India.
The CIPLC Rights was established as a result of a recently held Commonwealth UPR for the Caribbean, and also because the 53 Member States of the Commonwealth constitute the largest grouping of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the world. The Commonwealth already has its international structure and the CIPLC Rights wishes to promote the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the affairs of the Commonwealth, in addition to the monitoring of, and reporting on the Member States’ obligations to International Human Rights Instruments.
NGOs in India interested in the full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the affairs of the Commonwealth, and follow up to the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) regarding the Universal Periodic Review (first and second cycles) of India, whose second cycle review is due this year in the 13th session (1st semester) of the UNHRC from 21 May to 4 June 2012, may please contact the National Focal Point of India directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by phone at +91 9774328712. You may also write to the Coalition at <firstname.lastname@example.org> if you need an urgent response.
[A CSCHR report] Focus on AFSPA: Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya
CSCHR shares details of the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya on the Mission to India (10-21 January 2011) to the 19th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. A CSCHR member delegate is attending this current session.
Click the link below to see the UN Webcast of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya presenting her report, in which she said that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act must be repealed.
Click the link below to see the UN Webcast of the response statement of the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, Geneva delivered by Ms. Kheya Bhattacharya.
Other oral statements addressing the report.
CSCHR delegate to the current 19th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva shared the text of the Statement delivered by the Permanent Mission of India on Monday 5 March 2012 responding to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya – Mission to India.
CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE FULL STATEMENT
In her final remarks, the Special Rapporteur stood by her Mission to India report’s contents as factual, and also invited the government of India to cross-check any content if it so wishes. She also informed the Indian delegation, that her meetings in India were well-organised, including a lot of collaboration and cooperation from the government. She further said that she met more than 300 human rights defenders during her visit. She also mentioned that Amnesty International had asked her how the Indian government have implemented the recommendations. In this regard, Mrs Sekaggya said that she would rely a lot on local organisations, initiatives and institutions to get the recommendations implemented.
CSCHR Press Conference on Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya’s Mission to Indian report
CSCHR held a press conference at the Manipur Press Club on Monday, 5 March 2012 to release the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya who conducted a country visit to India from 10 to 21 January 2011, to assess the current situation of human rights defenders in India, during which she met with senior officials at the central and state levels, and human rights defenders. She visited Guwahati, Assam on 14 January 2011 and met with human rights defenders from Manipur and the north-eastern States. Mrs Sekaggya’s final report of her India mission was tabled before the 19th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, 5 March 2012.
The UN Special Rapporteur’s report recommends to the government of India to repeal the National Security Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, and the Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act; enact a law on the protection of human rights defenders, with an emphasis on defenders facing greater risks, developed in full and meaningful consultation with civil society and on the basis of technical advice from relevant United Nations entities; strengthen national human rights institutions; etc.
CLICK ON LINKS TO READ THE PRESS REPORTS
This is a letter written by CSCHR inviting the Mr Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions to come to Manipur during his imminent India visit from 19 – 30 March 2012.
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Our partner organisation, Extra-Judicial Execution’s Victim Families’ Association (EEVFAM) also sent a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur.
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Manipur has been continuously under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 for over half a century. Under this Act, armed forces of India are accorded sweeping powers including derogation of right to life. Though the Indian armed forces are stationed in Manipur to aid civil administration, the prolonged use of an emergency law has led to wide negative repercussions on governance, policing methods and development initiatives. This stakeholders’ report is the joint submission by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and UN, prepared through a collective consultative process, consisting of informal and formal meetings, conducted from September to November 2011. This coalition is the outcome of the collective engagement with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders during her visit in January 2011.
The report highlights key features of the unacceptable human rights situation prevailing in the frontier State of Manipur in the so-called North-Eastern region of India. It provides vital supplemental information in the examination of India’s human rights situation during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review conducted by the UN Human Rights Council this year.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process conducted by the UN Human Rights Council, involving a review of the human rights record of all 192 UN Member States once every four and a half years. The UPR is a peer review process, whereby UN Member States monitor each others’ human rights record. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare the actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and overcome challenges. The ultimate goal of the UPR is the improvement of the human rights situation in every country.
Apart from the information provided by the state under review and other reports received from the UN (such as independent human rights experts and bodies, known as ‘Special Procedures’, human rights treaty bodies, and other UN entities), information from ‘other stakeholders’ including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions are also examined in the UPR.
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Please see our Stakeholder Reports for submissions by NGOs and other stakeholders.