“Civil society delegation led by Henri Tiphagne meets outgoing hon’ble NHRC member Satyabrata Pal” – 28.01.2014
On behalf of Indian civil society and human rights organisations, a delegation led by Henri Tiphagne, convenor WGHR including Shivani Chaudhary, HLRN, Kirsty Welch, CHRI, Krish, WGHR, Sunil, WGHR and Harsh Dobhal, HRLN had an interaction with hon’ble Satyabrata Pal, outgoing Member (NHRC) at Manav Adhikar Bhawan, New Delhi on 28 February, 2014 . The delegation applauded his commendable contribution in promoting and protecting the culture of human rights in the country and his close collaboration in working with Indian civil society organisations in furthering the cause of human rights. The delegation also held discussion on his strategic alliance with the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) process during his tenure as a member of NHRC and appreciated his efforts in strengthening the values of the institution of national repute.
“Meeting with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief” – 25.02.2014
WGHR with its members and independent human rights experts met with the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt who was on his academic visit to India. In recent years, incidents targeting minorities in South Asia region have increased. The meeting was crucial in this context. Discussion centered around various other issues including atrocities against the most marginalised group, the Dalits and the challenges faced by various religious minorities in the region.
“Sabina Lauber’s visit and meeting with WGHR members”. – 20.02.2014
Sabina Lauber, Human Rights Officer, Asia Pacific Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited WGHR Secretariat at New Delhi for holding an official interaction with its members and independent human rights experts. Various critical issues related to human rights including racial discrimination against the people of north eastern region of India living in Indian capital Delhi, continuing practices of torture by police, other security agencies, growing trends of commercialisation of natural resources for profit making purposes by the MNCs, LGBT rights and threats to civil society oraganisations in terms of freedom of assembly and association were discussed during this meeting.
WGHR Workshop: WGHR organised a three days long workshop in Chandigarh on UN Human Rights Mechanisms with a Special Focus on Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (N/SHRIs). – 17.02.2014
A three day regional workshop was successfully conducted by WGHR during 17 – 19 February 2014 at Chandigarh with the objectives of introducing UN Human Rights mechanisms such as UPR, Special Procedures etc to the grass roots organisations and National and State Human Rights Institutions (N/SHRIs) in order to establish and strengthen solidarity, support and coordination among them.
The exercise was also aimed at creating awareness about the UPR process so as to ensure the maximum and meaningful participation of these organisations and institutions in the next UPR cycle. The purpose was also to enable or facilitate more engagement with the UN Human Rights mechanism in the forms of urgent appeals, sending communications to Special Rapporteurs, the role of the grass roots organisations in monitoring UPR recommendations on the ground and come up with collective monitoring reports to exert pressure and demand accountability from the Government of India.
Ms Sabina Lauber, Human Rights Officer, Asia Pacific Section, Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, David Lelliott, British Deputy High Commissioner, North West India, Chandigarh and Pradyumna Bora, Programme Manager, British High Commission were present during the inaugural session. Ms Sabina Lauber conducted a session on the UN human rights mechanism with special focus on the organisational structure and functioning of the OHCHR.
Around 50 participants from different states and union territories of India such as Assam , Chandigarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, New Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand working on various areas and issues of human rights such as child rights, women rights, sexual minority rights, environmental rights, dalit rights, labour rights etc actively took part in the exercises. Various group activities were carried out during the workshops to make it an engaging process for the participants. As many as hundred recommendations, commitments and suggestions came out of these group activities.
WGHR Press Release: WGHR Welcomes the Supreme Court's Judgement on Commuting Death Penalty into Life Imprisonment. – 23.01.2014
WGHR welcomes the Supreme Court Judgment of commuting death penalty of 15 convicts into life imprisonment. The Bench comprising three Supreme Court judges stated that undue, inordinate and unreasonable delay in execution of death sentence does certainly attribute to torture which indeed is in violation of Article 21 and thereby entails as the ground for commutation of sentence. Hence, the death sentence of 13 convicts was commuted to life imprisonment. The two other death penalties were commuted to life sentence on the ground of mental illness.
WGHR reiterates that death penalty embodies the idea of retribution which is as violent as the offence for which one is convicted, and is contrary to all civilized ideals of criminology and constitutionalism. This view was also echoed in the Honorable Court’s judgment that retribution has no constitutional value in our largest democratic country (India).
“WGHR meeting with Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator, India” – 21.01.2014
Miloon Kothari, former WGHR Convener, Henri Tiphagne, WGHR Convener and P. Krishnamoorthy, Secretary, WGHR met with Lise Grande, UN Resident coordinator, India on 21 January, 2014 in New Delhi to update her about the current activities being undertaken by WGHR and the way forward for WGHR’s consistent engagement with various Indian institutions and ministries as well as contribution with the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) process.
WGHR Member News and Activities
“Supreme Court order to frame guidelines and selection procedures for fair and transparent selection of members of NCPCR” – 26.02.2014
The Supreme Court of India in its order dated 25.02.2013 found no reason why norms and guidelines for selection of candidates should not be framed and published so that the entire process of selection is fair, reasonable, objective and transparent.
Hearing a case challenging Delhi High Court's Judgment quashing selection of Dr. Yogesh Dube as member of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a division bench of Supreme Court on 25.02.2014 has installed ongoing selection process till guidelines for selections are notified by Union Government and public advertisements are made for calling applications against existing vacancies in NCPCR.
Now with this order of Supreme Court, current selection process by which 5 names have been shortlisted stands installed and a fresh process needs to be started after notification of guidelines and putting advertisements for existing vacancies. Following the arbitrary appointments of Dr. Yogesh Dube and Mr. Vinod Kumar Tikoo as NCPCR members in November 2010, Association for Development (AFD) and HAQ: Centre for Child Rights (HAQ), a WGHR member had filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court in December of that year [WP (C) 1055 of 2011], challenging the selection process as well as their final selection. Such attempts had been made by the two organizations in the past too with a PIL filed in 2009, which resulted in some ad-hoc arrangements for selection of members to NCPCR. However, repeated violation of even this ad-hoc arrangement by the Ministry of Women and Child Development led to more litigation.
“IACR (India Alliance for Child Rights) held a meeting, ‘Children of the Republic-Stocktaking & Forward Planning’”. – 23.01.2014
India Alliance for Child Rights, a member of WGHR held a two day long meeting, “Children of the Republic-Stocktaking & Forward Planning” on 21 - 22 January in New Delhi. The objective of the programme was to prepare the recommendations for National Plan of Action for Children in the light of the UPR recommendations 2012 in detail. It also examined the Government of India’s Child Rights Convention Report 2011. On UPR recommendations the Government has accepted the most generic recommendations without any measurable and specific indicators.
“WGHR Members’ and independent human rights experts meeting to discuss the pressing human rights issues in the country” – 20.01.2014
WGHR held its periodical organisation meeting with the members and independent human rights experts to discuss various pressing human rights issues in India. Future operations and plan of action were also discussed in its objective to promote and protect the culture of human rights in the country Based on the grass root experiences especially monitoring mission on UPR recommendations, WGHR also decided to launch a ‘Communication Network’ involving all stakeholders. In order to steer this process, a subcommittee has been formed.
UN Human Rights News
“India to go after re – election to United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)” – The Morung Express, 27.01.2014
On the occasion of India’s 65th Republic Day, India’s Ambassador to the UN, Asoke Kumar Mukerji asserted that India would seek re – election to the UNHRC and continue to fulfill India’s developmental objectives in the coming year. He also said that India will give priority to early reforms of the UN Security Council and Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Developmental Goals.
“UN Report: India has highest population of illiterate adults” – Business Today, 29.01.2014
The 2013/14 Education for All Global Monitoring Report published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said that India has the highest population of illiterate adults at 287 million which amounts to 37 percent of the global total. The report only points out the huge disparity that exists in education levels among the rich and the poor of the country.
The report further said that a global learning crisis is costing governments $129 billion a year and therefore post-2015 goals need to include a commitment to make sure the most disadvantaged groups achieve benchmarks set for goals.
“UN human rights experts appreciate the judgment of commuting death penalty into life imprisonment by the Supreme Court of India” – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 30.01.2014
“This judgment by the Supreme Court reaffirms the value of human rights and respect for human life, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution,” said UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E Méndez, also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. But he stressed that Indian courts must continue to ensure that capital punishment does not violate the absolute prohibition on torture or ill-treatment.
“The fact of being on death row itself and the methods of execution employed may render capital punishment tantamount to torture,” Mr. Méndez highlighted.
Human Rights News
“Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) calls for a fast track court trial in the North Eastern student murder case.” – Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), 10.02.2014
Mr. Nido Taniam, a student from Arunachal Pradesh was murdered in an act of racist violence in Delhi last month. Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), a WGHR member demands that a fast track court must carry on the trail within a specific time frame based on the postmortem report which says that the death occurred due to injuries inflicted into the head and face by a blunt object.
"The trial in a fast track court of the accused is indispensable to send a clear message to bring an end to the acts of racial discrimination and violence against the people of the North East India. Any delay in delivering justice in Nido Taniam's murder will undermine the efforts to combat the acts of racial discrimination and violence against the people of North East India", stated Mr. Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.
“Training Program on Rights of Human Rights Defenders” – 27.01.2014
Training Program on Rights of Human Rights Defenders Exclusively for members of Political Parties and Movements from Tamil Nadu held at PILLAR Training Centre, Madurai on 25th-26th Jan. 2014.
“NHRC Chief said a lot needs to be improved for human rights situation in the country” – Business Standard, 15.01.2014
While inaugurating a three – day NHRC camp in Lucknow, Justice KG Balakrishnan, NHRC Chairman expressed his disappointment over the human rights situation in the country. "Despite the laws in place and the best efforts of the National Human Rights Commission, the situation of human rights in the country does not present a colourful picture and a lot needs to be done," he said.
He also said that despite the continuous endeavors by the NHRC, lot more efforts are required to be made to improve the culture of human rights in India.
“Public Hearing on Sexual Violence organised by WinG - Assam (Women in Governance), Henri Tiphagne and Babloo Loitongbam part of the jury” – 10.01.2014
WingG – Assam (Women and Governance), part of WinG - India, a network of Dalit women (erstwhile untouchables) and women affected by conflict in Northeast India and other parts of the country conducted a two day Public Hearing on 8th and 9th January in Lakhi Ram Barua Sadan, District Library Campus, Guwahati where 21 cases of sexual violence were heard publicly in front an eminent Jury comprising of Manjula Pradeep( Dalit Rights Activist), Roshmi Goswami (Women Rights Activist) Rakhee Kalita(Academician), Gayatri Singh( Human Rights Lawyer), Babloo Loitongbam ( Human Rights Activist), Henri Tiphagne( Human Rights Activist), Sabda Rabba( Human Rights Lawyer) who gave strong recommendations on the legal mechanisms and also provided different social, economic and legal perspectives on the cases. These 21 cases ranging from gang rape, molestation, voyeurism, acid attack, marital rape, sexual assault and state induced sexual violence covered 11 districts of Assam- Cachar, Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Chirang, Tinsukia, Jorhat, Nagaon, Dibrugarh, Mangaldoi, NC Hills, Dima Hasao.
Strong recommendations were given by the jury at the end, two of them being: sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law; There should be special commissioners – who are either judicially or legislatively appointed – for women’s safety and security in all areas of conflict in the country. These commissioners must be chosen from those who have experience with women’s issues, preferably in conflict areas. In addition, such commissioners must be vested with adequate powers to monitor and initiate action for redress and criminal prosecution in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed personnel.