United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday called on the Indian government to immediately release Delhi University professor GN Saibaba, who is lodged in a jail in Maharashtra on charges of links with Maoists.
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.
Saibaba has been placed in solitary confinement and has severe health problems, said the UN human rights experts in a press release. “Dr Saibaba’s health problems require immediate and sustained medical attention and are reaching a point of being life-threatening,” they added.
The experts include special rapporteurs Catalina Devandas, Michael Forst, Dainius Pūras, Nils Melzer and Agnès Callamard.
The officials said that Saibaba has been detained in “inadequate conditions of so-called ‘anda cells’, with no windows, extreme temperatures and inaccessible facilities”. They added that Saibaba also lacks “reasonable accommodation” in prison and has not been properly treated for an injury he sustained to his left hand in 2014. “The latest reports indicate that he is in extreme pain and is no longer responding to drugs and sedatives,” they added.
“Dr Saibaba has been a leading voice defending the rights of religious minorities, adivasis and Dalits,” the United Nations human rights experts said. “India is bound by its international obligations to ensure that persons with disabilities deprived of their liberty are provided with reasonable accommodation, accessible healthcare, as well as continuous and appropriate medical treatment and rehabilitation.”
The officials said that denying such facilities may amount to torture or ill-treatment. “Moreover, prolonged solitary confinement may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and, in some circumstances, even to torture,” they added.
The experts said that they had contacted the Indian government several times since June 2018 to raise the matter of Saibaba’s detention and lack of facilities, but had not received any reply yet.