Third UPR review of India: Implications for Manipur

Jiten Yumnam *

A delegation of Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR) who attended the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
A delegation of Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN (CSCHR) who attended the 36th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) : Pix - TSE

The adoption session on the recommendations of the Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of India for implementation of its international human rights obligations at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on 21st September 2017 at Geneva is yet another occasion that questioned India’s assertion as the largest democratic nation in the world. The review is a litmus test if the Government of India will ever respect the recommendations of member states of the UN to uphold intrinsic fundamental rights and freedom, inherent traits of a democratic society.

As the entire UPR review process involves incorporating the voices of human rights organizations, the review process is a unique occasion to enhance and indeed prove the democratic nature of the Indian State by incorporating civil society views, concerns and suggestions for a more democratic society. India opted to prove otherwise on advancing human rights.

Earlier, India’s human rights record reviewed on 4 May 2017 at the UNHRC had Indian Government delegates receiving 250 recommendations from UN members states on a range of issues, including the need for India to ratify the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) as well as the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to end all forms of violence against women and discrimination against minorities and marginalized communities.

In the last UPR review of India, countries like Switzerland, the United States of Americaand Estonia etc raised concerns with the arbitration of human rights principles in places in Manipur, especially extra judicial executions, arbitrary detentions, torture etc and the continued lack of accountability of the armed forces for the violations in the recent UPR review of India. Slovakia indeed called for repeal of the AFSPA, 1958 in the last UPR in 2012, while Switzerland recommended for review of the Act for full compliance with international human rights standards, which means all derogation of fundamental human rights like “Right to Life”, “Right to Justice Remedy” and also the arbitrary declaration of “disturbed area” or a State of Emergency” without informing the rest of the world need be revoked.

India accepted most of the general recommendations, a little bit more than 260 recommendations related to economic, social and cultural rights, such as right to health, education, promoting sustainable development goals, promotion of women’s and child rights etc in the Third UPR review, but most of the recommendations around ending impunity, access to Justice, protection of Human Rights defenders and on indigenous peoples rights remains unaccepted. India has consciously chosen to reject the recommendations around the continued application of emergency laws and call to end militarization and subsequent human rights violations. It is highly concerning that the Government of India refuse to repeal the AFSPA and to end security forces violations and impunity despite recommendations of several member states of United Nations in the first, second and third review of India in 2008, 2012 and 2017.

The continued enforcement of AFSPA, 1958 will mean the unleashing of more inhumanity, extreme forms of human rights violations, genocidal practices and a culture of impunity, targeting the most marginalized communities, indigenous peoples and national minorities. The AFSPA, 1958 has no place in the modern world. The derogation and denial of “Right to Life” and “right to justice”, simply contravenes all provisions of the International Law.

In Manipur in India’s North East, the self-determination efforts of indigenous peoples are responded militarily with brute forms of extensive militarization, facilitated by the enforcement of emergency legislations like AFSPS. Militarization processes in Manipur led to wide controversy in Manipur, especially the direct civilian casualties. One of the most direct impacts of militarization is on women and children.

The infamous rape and murder of Miss Thangjam Manorama on 11 July 2004 by personnel of the 17th Assam Rifles and the countless victims of rape and other forms of sexual harassment is clear testament of the true nature of the Indian state. There are countless victims of rapes and sexual harassment committed by Indian security forces, such as the infamous incidents of Chanu Rose, Ahanjaobi etc and many rape cases goes unreported due to the fear of intimidation, social stigma etc.

In Manipur, rape is being used as a weapon of war and indeed constitutes a form of genocide against the indigenous populace of Manipur. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo during her recent visit to Manipur in April 2013, also urged upon the Government of India to stop all forms of State violence against women and to deliver justice for all violations recorded.

The failure to deliver justice for the unaccountable victims of extra judicial executions by the Indian armed forces and the Manipur police remains a serious matter of concern. The AFSPA, 1958 with its continued imposition in places like Manipur and other North East States, represents a clear a symbol of oppression, undemocratic nature in Manipur and wherever it is imposed in other parts of India. The Act has become an instrument of genocidal practices.

The failure to implement the recommendations already accepted by the Government of India in UPR reviews is another serious concern. The Government of India accepted to end enforced disappearances in India in the first UPR review in 2008, but enforced disappearance continues to be a serious concern in India. The practice of torture and enforced disappearance is another practice that undermined all democratic practices and the refusal to accept the recommendations to end enforced disappearance is a serious concern.

The recommendation to protect the rights of women and children is another concern which India accepts to adopt appropriate steps, but failing to reverse the trend of targeting violations. The failure to accept the recommendations to protect Human Rights Defenders is a major concern, as testified by the increased incarceration and torture of human rights defenders, killing of journalist.

The call for protection of indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities is another area which the Government of India has failed to respond positively and indeed, indigenous peoples land and territories are increasingly been subjected to exploitation and plunder for economic development and mega development projects, like mining, oil exploration, mega dams, infrastructure projects etc that threatened their livelihood and survival.

The plans to build the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, the 190 MW Pabram dam and 67 MW Khongnem Chakha dam over the Barak River will unleash multiple rights violations on indigenous peoples. The Ithai Barrage of 105 MW Loktak Hydroelectric project and the Mapithel dam has already caused wide displacement and affected the livelihood of indigenous peoples. The Government of India failed to adhere to the minimum standards of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 in all its effort to drill oil and gas or to mine minerals from Manipur. The Government also refused to accede to the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.

The failure to accede and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is another concern and the ratification would definitely facilitate holding the perpetrators of the extreme forms of human rights accountable for the violations, such as in armed conflict afflicted region like Manipur.

The three UPR review of India in the year 2008, 2012 and in 2017 are continued processes and hence all the recommendations in the three reviews should be fully implemented. Accepting and full implementation of the recommendations in the UPR review of India is critical to foster the human rights of all peoples and to really uphold democratic practices in India.

The human rights situation in Manipur and across North East India would continue to worsen and indeed, several states in the region continue to impose AFSPA, 1958 even after the recommendations to repeal the Act for its notoriety and genocidal practices. The Government of India should repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and should end all forms of extra judicial execution and all forms of genocidal practices by Indian armed forces under AFSPA, 1958.

The Government should ratify the Rome Statute on establishment of the International Criminal Court to enable the prosecution of those unleashing genocidal killings and other violations in Manipur. All appropriate steps to protect human rights defenders for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression need be initiated. The Government should promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples by ending all forms of expropriation of their land, territories and resources and implement the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, 2007 to guarantee minimum rights and protection for indigenous peoples to survive as peoples with rights and dignity.

The UPR is another occasion to advance democracy in India. However, for reasons best known to itself, the country has chosen to ignore these important global processes and the crucial messages for fostering genuine democracy and practices. Especially for a country aspiring to a global leader with permanent membership in the United Nations, listening to the recommendations of both member states of UN and also from human rights organizations, would be a crucial steps to exhibit its real commitments to human rights and democracy.

* Jiten Yumnam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 28, 2017.

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