United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor on Friday criticised India’s handling of rights activists, reported The Indian Express. Lawlor was speaking at an online event marking the 100 days of imprisonment of activist Stan Swamy.
“India is a state which doesn’t properly protect human rights defenders,” Lawlor said. “I am appalled by the treatment of human rights defenders such as Father Stan Swamy who embodies solidarity.”
Lawlor said that she had written to the Indian government raising concerns about Swamy’s arrest, but she was yet to get a reply. “Governments are given a 60-day period during which they are expected to reply… But I’m still to receive a response from the Indian authorities,” she said.
Earlier this month, Lawlor had tweeted a copy of the letter, where she referred to Swamy’s arrest as an “arbitrary detention”, pointing out that he has been working to protect the rights of Adivasis and Dalits since the 1970s.
Swamy was arrested on October 8 by the National Investigation Agency in connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. He and a number of other social activists, lawyers and academicians, who have been in jail under the anti-terrorism law – Unlawful Activities Prevention Act – face charges of participating in a Maoist conspiracy to overthrow the government and assassinate the prime minister.
In November, social media users launched a campaign after it emerged that the NIA had told a court that it would not be able to provide a sipper and straw to Swamy, which he needed to drink water as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The NIA later provided him with the sipper and straw and refused that they had denied it.
In Friday’s event, Lawlor said that there were “severe challenges to promoting and protecting human rights” in India, and the state was responsible for protection of human rights defenders. She also criticised the stringent UAPA, suggesting that the law’s definition of a terrorist act was not precise and failed to provide legal certainty.