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Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

Margaret Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, following her Mission to India about one year ago, issued a summary statement in January 2011. Her report was completed and placed before the UN General Assembly about two weeks ago. It’s available now at this location:

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/A-HRC-19-55-Add1.pdf

The entire report is worth reading. Below is the last section of the report, the recommendations. Among other things, it calls for the repeal of the AFSPA, UAPA, KPSA and CSPSA.

B. Recommendations

1. Recommendations for the consideration of the central and state Governments, and the legislature

137. The highest authorities at the central and state levels should publicly acknowledge the importance and legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, i.e. anyone who, “individually and in association with others, … promote[s] and … strive[s] for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” (art. 1 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).

138. Specific attention must be given by all authorities to the categories of human rights defenders mentioned in the present report, in particular defenders working on rights of marginalized groups, including Dalits and Adivasis; defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights; defenders affected by security legislations and militarization; Right to Information activists; journalists; and women defenders and defenders working on women and child rights.

139. A comprehensive, adequately resourced protection programme for human rights defenders and witnesses at the central and state levels and in conjunction with the National and State Human Rights Commissions should be devised. This programme could be funded by the State, but should not be closely controlled by the State apparatus. In particular, it should not be associated with State agencies, such as the police, security agencies and the military.7 The process for applying for protective measures provided under such a programme should be cost-free, simple and fast, and immediate protection should be granted while the risk situation of the person is being assessed. When assessing the risk situation of a defender or witness, the specificities of his/her profile pertaining to caste, gender and ethnic, indigenous and/or religious affiliation, inter alia, should be systematically taken into account. Finally, the personnel assigned to the protection of defenders or witnesses should not gather information for intelligence purposes.

140. Security forces should be clearly instructed to respect the work and the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders, especially the categories of defenders mentioned in the present report.

141. Sensitization training to security forces on the role and activities of human rights defenders should be significantly strengthened as a matter of priority, with technical advice and assistance from relevant United Nations entities, NGOs and other partners.

142. Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations on violations committed against human rights defenders should be conducted, and perpetrators should be prosecuted, on a systematic basis. Fair and effective remedies should be available to victims, including those for obtaining compensation.

143. The Supreme Court judgment on police reform should be fully implemented in line with international standards, in particular at the state level.

144. 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, should be enacted.

145. The National Security Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Unlawful Activities Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act and the Chhattisgargh Public Safety Act should be repealed. Other security legislations should be reviewed in the light of international human rights standards.

146. The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act should be critically reviewed or repealed.

147. The Draft Bill on Prevention Against Torture should be adopted without further delay.

148. Necessary steps should be taken to recognize the competence of United Nations human rights treaty bodies to receive individual complaints, which will provide human rights defenders an opportunity to access another procedure to address violation of their rights.

149. The functioning of the National Human Rights Commission should be reviewed with a view to strengthening it by, inter alia, increasing its capacity to improve its case-handling function; broadening the selection criteria for the appointment of the Chair; diversifying the composition of the Commission, including regarding gender; extending the one-year limitation clause; and establishing an independent committee in charge of investigating allegations of violations by State agents. The Human Rights Act should be amended as necessary in full and meaningful consultation with civil society.

150. State Human Rights Commissions should be established in states where such commissions are not yet in existence. The capacity-building and resources of existing Commissions should be reinforced.

151. Central and state Governments should continue collaborating with Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

2. Recommendations for the consideration of the national and existing state human rights commissions

152. Wherever relevant, current or former members of the police, security agencies and the military serving in the National Human Rights Commission or the State Human Rights Commissions should not be involved in any part of investigations into

allegations of human rights violations by State actors, as they may have political and ideological allegiances to the accused implicated in the case and may have the capacity to influence the outcome.

153. The supportive role of the Commissions for human rights defenders should be strengthened by inter alia, conducting regular regional visits; meeting human rights defenders in difficulty or at risk; undertaking trial observations of cases of human rights defenders wherever appropriate; denouncing publicly on a regular basis violations against defenders and impunity. The defenders focal point should play a leading role in that regard. This focal point should be a member of the Commission, and have a human rights defender background to fully understand the challenges faced by defenders. A fast-track procedure for defenders within the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions should be considered.

154. The visibility of the commissions should be enhanced through regular, proactive and meaningful engagement with civil society and the media.

155. A toll-free 24-hour emergency hotline for human rights defenders should be established and widely publicized. Such a hotline should be available in the main languages spoken in India.

156. The National Human Rights Commission should intervene on the issue of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act and should monitor the denial of registration and permission to receive foreign funding for NGOs, with a view to amending or repealing the bill.

157. The Commissions should monitor the full implementation by India of recommendations made by United Nations human rights mechanisms, including special procedure mandate-holders, treaty bodies and the universal periodic review. Such a monitoring role should apply to the recommendations contained in this report.

158. The statutory commissions should be allocated adequate human and financial resources to fully carry out their mandates.

3. Recommendations for the consideration of the judiciary

159. The judiciary should be vigilant and cognizant of the role of human rights defenders.

160. The judiciary should take proactive measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders at risk, witnesses and victims.

161. The judiciary should ensure better utilization of suo motu whenever cases of violation against human rights defenders arise.

4. Recommendations for the consideration of human rights defenders

162. Platforms or networks aimed at informing and protecting defenders, facilitating dialogue and coordination among defenders should be devised or strengthened.

163. Defenders should better acquaint themselves with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

164. Efforts should be made to continue making full use of United Nations special procedures and other international human rights mechanisms when reporting on human rights violations.

5. Recommendations for the consideration of the international community and donors

165. The situation of human rights defenders, in particular the most targeted and vulnerable ones, should be continually monitored and support for their work should be expressed through, inter alia, interventions before central and state institutions.

166. Efforts should be intensified in empowering civil society, including by increasing their capacity.

6. Recommendations for the consideration of all stakeholders

167. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders should be translated into the main local languages and widely disseminated.