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.

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