Sunday, December 26, 2010

Human rights groups urge repeal of India emergency law to end protester's 10-year hunger fast





Human rights organizations today submitted a petition to the government of India declaring their support for a 10-year hunger fast of a woman from Manipur in India against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Sixty-two human rights organizations and 46 individuals signed the petition to mark the 10th anniversary on 2 November of the hunger strike of Irom Sharmila to protest against the continued imposition of the AFSPA in Manipur.  
AFSPA MUST BE REPEALED !
THE 10 YEARS HUNGER STRIKE OF IROM SHARMILA MUST END NOW!
We, the undersigned 108 human rights NGOs, human rights defenders, and women human rights defenders from all over the world, celebrate Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila’s unwavering courage for standing as a voice for thousands of voiceless people demanding to repeal the Armed Forced Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). Her 10-year fasting symbolizes the journey of the people of Manipur and other areas of Northeast India for genuine peace and freedom from violence.

The direct cause for the hunger strike of Ms. Irom Sharmila is the Malom massacre in 2 November 2000 which had claimed lives of 10 civilians, including women and children, by the Indian security forces. Ms. Irom Sharmila took an indomitable stand that she will only end her fast when the Government of India repeals the AFSPA. Ironically, the Government of India responded to this act of peaceful protest by arresting her several times on charges of attempted suicide which is unlawful under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The cycle of arrests of Ms. Irom Sharmila has continued for the past 10 years.

Ms. Irom Sharmila has been recognized internationally for her work on the issues of women’s empowerment, peace and human rights, and her non-violent means of fighting for human rights. In 2007, Ms. Irom Sharmila has been awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights and in 2010, the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize. Despite the international community’s recognition of Ms. Irom Sharmila’s work, the Indian government insists on keeping her under judicial custody in the Security Ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal, Manipur, and forcibly feeding her through nasogastric intubation.

The AFSPA was initially introduced in 1958 and was enforced in Manipur in 1980, initially intended to be in effect for only 6 months in order to maintain public order in areas deemed to be “disturbed” by the Indian government. However, the AFSPA is still being implemented in Manipur until now. The Act allows wider discretionary power to an officer of the armed forces to arrest without a warrant, and with the use of necessary force, anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so. Moreover, the Act also grants officers of the armed forces to fire upon or otherwise use force, even if this causes death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order as well as to enter and search without warrant any premises to make arrests. The Act further stipulates that any officer of the armed forces may only be prosecuted upon the permission of the central government, a provision that further entrenches the culture of impunity.

The repeal of the AFSPA has been demanded over the years by the international community including the AFSPA Review Committee which formed by the Government of India as well as many human rights defenders in India and all over the world. In fact, in 2009, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay, during her visit to India in March 2009, said that the Act breached "contemporary international human rights standards." The European Parliament, in 14 June 2010, also raised the demand for the repeal of the AFSPA. In 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the Government of India to repeal AFSPA and replace it with a more humane Act within one year. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also asked the Indian Government to “provide information on the steps being taken to abolish or reform AFSPA.”

The criminalization of Ms. Irom Sharmila’s peaceful protest against the AFSPA violates Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which guarantees the right of human rights defenders and women human rights defenders to promote and protect the realisation of human rights. Moreover, restriction imposed on Ms. Sharmila depriving her access with public media, human rights defenders and other people is in violation with said Declaration which ensure freedom of assembly and the right to communicate (Art. 5) and the right to access and disseminate human rights information and to draw public attention to human rights issues (Art. 6).

Last 2 November 2010, Irom Sharmila as well as the people of Northeast India marked a decade of hunger not only for fundamental human rights but also for truth on the foundations of Indian democracy. We join the collective message that we do not want another year of celebration of Ms. Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike and we do not want another year of the AFSPA’s enforcement in India.

We, human rights defenders and women human rights defenders, stand as one in demanding that the AFSPA should be repealed immediately and that the hunger strike of Ms. Irom Sharmila must end now.

The following groups and individuals endorse this statement:

Organisations:

1.    Adhwana Kerala Forum of Partners in Sustainable Development, India
2.    All India Network of Individuals and Organizations Working with National Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI), India
3.    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
4.    Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
5.    Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR), Bangladesh
6.    BAOBAB For Women's Human Rights
7.    Centre for Organization Research & Education (CORE), India
8.    Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)
9.    Common Concern, India
10.    Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
11.    Community Self-Reliance Center (CSRC), Nepal
12.    Dalit Foundation, India
13.    Darshan, India
14.    Development Education and Environment Protection Society (DEEPS), India
15.    EMPOWER, India
16.    Equitable Tourism Options (EQUATIONS), India
17.    Forum Against War on People (Punjab), India
18.    Front Line International
19.    Globe International, Mongolia
20.    Human Rights Defenders Alert-India (HRDA), India
21.    Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Burma/Thailand
22.    Human Rights Home Nepal, Nepal
23.    Human Rights Initiative (HRI), India
24.    Imparsial, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor, Indonesia
25.    Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC), New Zealand
26.    INFORM, Sri Lanka
27.    Informal Sector Service (INSEC), Nepal
28.    Institute of Human Rights Education India (IHRE), India
29.    Integrated Rural Workers Organization (IRWO), India
30.    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
31.    Jananeethi & Jananeethi Institute, India
32.    MADRE
33.    Migrante International
34.    Madurai Multipurpose Social Service Society (MMSSS)
35.    National Alliance on Testimonial Therapy (NATT), India
36.    National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Pakistan
37.    Non-Violence International Southeast Asia
38.    North East Network (NEN), India
39.    Odhikar, Bangladesh
40.    People's Action For Rural Awakening, India
41.    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea
42.    People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), India
43.    People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India
44.    People’s Watch (PW), India
45.    RIGHTS, India
46.    Sakshi Human Rights Watch, India
47.    SASVIKA, India
48.    Singapore Democrats Party (SDP), Singapore
49.    Society for Community Organization Trust (SOCO Trust), India
50.    South India for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India
51.    Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
52.    Sudhanthra (Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Domestic Violence and Torture), India
53.    Tanggol Kalikasan, Philippines
54.    The Asian Indigenous Women's Network (AIWN)
55.    The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
56.    The International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
57.    Think Centre, Singapore
58.    UP Grameen Evam Khetihar Mazdoor Union, India
59.    Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights
60.    Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)
61.    World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
62.    Korea House for International Solidarity (KHIS)