The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014, after the police in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, claimed he had links with Maoists. He was sentenced to life in prison in March 2017 and has been in the Nagpur Central Jail since.
“We are concerned about reports that Saibaba is suffering from more than 15 different health problems, some of which have potentially fatal consequences,” the experts said in a joint statement in Geneva.
The experts include special rapporteurs Catalina Devandas, Michel Forst, Dainius Pūras and Nils Melzer, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said. “Saibaba’s health is progressively and severely deteriorating because of poor jail conditions and untrained staff unable to adequately assist prisoners with disabilities,” the experts said, adding that he is now in “urgent need” of adequate medical treatment.
“We would like to remind India that any denial of reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities in detention is not only discriminatory but may well amount to ill-treatment or even torture,” they said. “In particular, solitary confinement should be prohibited when the conditions of prisoners with disabilities would be made worse by this measure.”
The human rights commissioner’s office called Saibaba a “long-standing defender of the rights of various minorities in India against corporate interests”. It claimed that the judgement convicting Saibaba “allegedly failed to point out a single instance in which Saibaba was a conspirator to commit violence or provide logistical support to violent acts”.
The case against Saibaba
The case began in 2013, with a police raid at Saibaba’s Delhi University accommodation. The police alleged he was “an urban contact” for the Maoists and that he was named by Hem Mishra, then a Jawaharlal Nehru University student who was arrested in Gadchiroli.
He was first arrested in May 2014. In late June 2015, the Bombay High Court granted him bail on medical grounds, and he was released in July 2015. He went back to jail in December and was released again in April 2016, after the Supreme Court granted him bail.
Saibaba had extensively campaigned against the Salwa Judum militia in Chhattisgarh and the human rights violations that accompanied Operation Green Hunt against Maoists in central India that was launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance government.