TODAY -

Police Intimidation and Harassment of Human Rights Activist in Manipur

April 12, 2018



ISSUES: Police harassment, abuse of power, threats to human rights defenders, destruction of property

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information about the harassment and intimidation of a human rights activists in Manipur from our partner organisation Human Rights Alert (HRA). This is part of a wider campaign of abuse against human rights defenders, particularly those who have challenged armed security personnel in the region.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Salima Memcha is the Coordinator, Thoubal District of Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM). EEVFAM is the Petitioner seeking probe of 1528 cases of fake encounter before the Supreme Court of India, which is listed for hearing on 16th April 2018. Salima’s husband, Md. Fajiruddin, was allegedly killed in a fake encounter with the Assam Rifles, for which the National Human Rights Commission (NHC) recommended monetary relief, which was eventually paid by the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal District, Manipur.

His case is also part of the 62 cases submitted before the Supreme Court in the aforementioned petition, along with Writ Petition (Criminal) No 129 of 2012. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Manipur, had taken up the case in connection with the killing of her husband, for which she was summoned to the CID-Crime Branch on 7th April 2018.

However, Salima was subjected to a torrent of abuse and threats, due to which she now fears for her life. At around 5 a.m on 7th April, she was looking for documents which she wanted to show the CID-Crime Branch in connection with her husband’s death. On hearing heavy knocks at the gate, she went outside her house, and found a team of Police Commando personnel, with some female personnel. They did not respond to her enquiry about the reason for their visit, and instead rushed inside her house without permission. They entered each room in the house and searched every nook and corner in a violent manner, resulting in the destruction of her personal properties, including a television set.

All her belongings were dragged out of her cupbaords as well, despite her protests. The police officers then began to question Salima about the particulars of her family members. On finding out that one of her sons was studying outside Manipur, the officer warned her about sending her children outside the state. Salima informed the police officer that she was a human rights activist and was supposed to visit the CID-Crime Branch that day in connection with her husband’s death in the fake encounter. The officer rudely replied that her husband must have been a militant, while the other officers continued to destroy her properties.

At that moment, the women police personnel informed the police officer that they did not wish to take part in the harassment of an innocent woman and left the house. However, the other male personnel did not leave, and instead continued to threaten her, by claiming that the police had been looking for her for months. The police officers finally left after about 30 minutes, taking a photo from Salima’s house, and threatening her with dire consequences. Salima had written to the Director-General of Police, Manipur, and to the Inspector, Police Zone-1, Manipur on the day of the incident, but no action has been taken on her complaint. Salima has had to take shelter in a safe place, in order to avoid such intimidation and harassment.

BACKGROUND:

This is not an isolated incident of police harassment in the state, particularly against persons involved with EEVFAM. In January this year, Sagolsem Menjor Singh, whose son was killed in a fake encounter, was allegedly harassed by police on concocted charges. In February, there were reports of army personnel and state police officials forcibly entering the house of Human Rights Alert activist Ranjeeta Sadokpam and coercing her to sign a document. The AHRC had released an Urgent Appeal on this matter in Urgent Appeal 014/2018.

In the same month, Manoj Thockchom, also of EEVFAM, was detained for 15 hours by police without a warrantand questioned about ties to insurgent groups. In addition to this, the AHRC has also taken cognizance of the harassment and attempted arrest of A. Pholen, a human rights activist in Urgent Appeal 008/2018. This shows that there is a protracted campaign of harassment of human rights defenders in the state of Manipur, in which police personnel and armed security forces are complicit. The Chief Minister and the State Human Rights Commission have failed to address the issue, despite being aware of the numerous instances of harassment.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The harassment and verbal abuse faced by Salima amounts to criminal intimidation, an offence under S.503 of the Indian Penal Code. Since the case involves members of police forces, the investigation into the matter should be handed over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or another neutral authority. This is in accordance with the SC decision in R.S. Sodhi v. State of Uttar Pradesh [s1994 Supp 1 SCC 143]. In the case of Prakash Singh v. UOI [(2006) 8 SCC 1] the SC directed each state to implement the Model Police Bill of 2006, which would entail the constitution of a State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) that would have the power to hear complaints about personnel in a neutral environment. Despite this order of the SC, only fourteen states till date have passed the Bill, while even fewer states have actually constituted the SPCA. It is therefore absolutely essential that Manipur sets up the SPCA at the earliest, so that it can fairly deal with the numerous complaints against the police personnel in the state.

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, stated that governments have the duty to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their efforts to promote human rights. Therefore, the government is bound by its international legal obligations to ensure that all activists and human rights defenders are provided with protection against arbitrary arrests under false charges, security against violence from law enforcement, so that they may enjoy their constitutional right to due process, life and liberty under Article 21, and the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a).

The violations of these rights constitute a violation of fundamental rights, as well as basic human rights. The NHRC has the power to inquire into human rights violations on the basis of reports it receives and may assume all relevant powers of a Civil Court for the purposes of inquiry under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act. Such a power may be used to investigate the epidemic of police harassment of human rights defenders in India, particularly in areas with heavy police presences, including the border regions. It is notable that the State Human Rights Commission, which possesses similar powers within the territory of the concerned state, has yet to appoint its Chairperson, which has impeded its functioning. This is despite the High Court of Manipur ordering the appointment of the Chairperson within three months of the order in Suresh Singh v. State of Manipur [PIL No. 4/2014], which was passed on 18th January 2018.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write letters to the relevant authorities asking them to ensure that the investigation into Salima’s harassment is conducted immediately and impartially, and that the protections guaranteed to human rights defenders under international law are fulfilled. The AHRC will be writing a separate letter to Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, apprising him of the issue.

To support this case, please click here:
http://www.urgentappeals.net/support.php?ua=AHRC-UAC-020-2018

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

INDIA: Police Intimidation and Harassment of Human Rights Activist in Manipur

Name of victim: Salima Memcha

Names of alleged perpetrators: Police Personnel attached to Thoubal District, Manipur

Place of incident: Thoubal District, Manipur

Salima Memcha is the Coordinator, Thoubal District of Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM). EEVFAM is the Petitioner seeking probe of 1528 cases of fake encounter before the Supreme Court of India, which is listed for hearing on 16th April 2018. Salima’s husband, Md. Fajiruddin, was killed in a fake encounter with the Assam Rifles, for which the National Human Rights Commission (NHC) recommended monetary relief, which was eventually paid by the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal District, Manipur. His case is also part of the 62 cases submitted before the Supreme Court in the aforementioned petition, along with Writ Petition (Criminal) No 129 of 2012. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Manipur, had taken up the case in connection with the killing of her husband, for which Salima was summoned to the CID-Crime Branch on 7th April 2018.

However, Salima was subjected to a torrent of abuse and threats, due to which she now fears for her life. At around 5 a.m on 7th April, she was looking for documents which she wanted to show the CID-Crime Branch in connection with her husband’s death. On hearing heavy knocks at the gate, she went outside her house, and found a team of Police Commando personnel, with some female personnel. They did not respond to her enquiry about the reason for their visit, and instead rushed inside her house without permission. They entered each room in the house and searched every nook and corner in a violent manner, resulting in the destruction of her personal properties, including a television set. All her belongings were dragged out of her cupboards as well, despite her protests. The police officers then began to question Salima about the particulars of her family members.

On finding out that one of her sons was studying outside Manipur, the officer warned her about sending her children outside the state. Salima informed the police officer that she was a human rights activist, and was supposed to visit the CID-Crime Branch that day in connection with her husband’s death in the fake encounter. The officer rudely replied that her husband must have been a militant, while the other officers continued to destroy her properties. At that moment, the women police personnel informed the police officer that they did not wish to take part in the harassment of an innocent woman, and left the house. However, the other male personnel did not leave, and instead continued to threaten her, by claiming that the police had been looking for her for months. The police officers finally left after about 30 minutes, taking a photo from Salima’s house, and threatening her with dire consequences. Salima had written to the Director-General of Police, Manipur, and to the Inspector, Police Zone-1, Manipur on the day of the incident, but no action has been taken on her complaint. Salima has had to take shelter in a safe place, in order to avoid such intimidation and harassment.

This is not an isolated incident of police harassment in the state, particularly against persons involved with EEVFAM. In January this year, Sagolsem Menjor Singh, whose son was killed in a fake encounter, was allegedly harassed by police on concocted charges. In February, there were reports of army personnel and state police officials forcibly entering the house of Human Rights Alert activist Ranjeeta Sadokpam, and coercing her to sign a document. The AHRC had released an Urgent Appeal on this matter in Urgent Appeal 014/2018. In the same month, Manoj Thockchom, also of EEVFAM, was detained for 15 hours by police without a warrant, and questioned about ties to insurgent groups. In addition to this, the AHRC has also taken cognizance of the harassment and attempted arrest of A. Pholen, a human rights activist in Urgent Appeal 008/2018. This shows that there is a protracted campaign of harassment of human rights defenders in the state of Manipur, in which police personnel and armed security forces are complicit. The Chief Minister and the State Human Rights Commission have failed to address the issue, despite being aware of the numerous instances of harassment.

The harassment and verbal abuse faced by Salima amounts to criminal intimidation, an offence under S.503 of the Indian Penal Code. Since the case involves members of police forces, the investigation into the matter should be handed over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or another neutral authority. This is in accordance with the SC decision in R.S. Sodhi v. State of Uttar Pradesh [s1994 Supp 1 SCC 143]. In the case of Prakash Singh v. UOI [(2006) 8 SCC 1] the SC directed each state to implement the Model Police Bill of 2006, which would entail the constitution of a State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) that would have the power to hear complaints about personnel in a neutral environment. Despite this order of the SC, only fourteen states till date have passed the Bill, while even fewer states have actually constituted the SPCA. It is therefore absolutely essential that Manipur sets up the SPCA at the earliest, so that it can fairly deal with the numerous complaints against the police personnel in the state.

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998 by the UN General Assembly, stated that governments have the duty to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary actions” as a consequence of their efforts to promote human rights. Therefore, the government is bound by its international legal obligations to ensure that all activists and human rights defenders are provided with protection against arbitrary arrests under false charges, security against violence from law enforcement, so that they may enjoy their constitutional right to due process, life and liberty under Article 21, and the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a). The violations of these rights constitute a violation of fundamental rights, as well as basic human rights. The NHRC has the power to inquire into human rights violations on the basis of reports it receives, and may assume all relevant powers of a Civil Court for the purposes of inquiry under Section 13 of the Protection of Human Rights Act. Such a power may be used to investigate the epidemic of police harassment of human rights defenders in India, particularly in areas with heavy police presences, including the border regions. It is notable that the State Human Rights Commission, which possesses similar powers within the territory of the concerned state, has yet to appoint its Chairperson, which has impeded its functioning. This is despite the High Court of Manipur ordering the appointment of the Chairperson within three months of the order in Suresh Singh v. State of Manipur [PIL No. 4/2014], which was passed on 18th January 2018.

It is suggested that an inquiry is instituted by the NHRC into the epidemic of police harassment in Manipur. An investigation into Salima’s harassment must be made by an independent body, such as the CBI, and the same treatment must be accorded to similar cases in the state. The Director-General of Police must ensure that police personnel are instructed to ensure that human rights defenders are specially protected, and that any harassment of such activists will result in strict disciplinary proceedings against police personnel involved in the matter. As part of a long-term plan to deal with the issue, both the SPCA and the State Human Rights Commission must be duly constituted and members appointed, in accordance with the relevant statutes and orders of the SC.

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Justice H.L.Dattu, Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Manav Adhikar Bhawan
Block-C, G.P.O. Complex, INA
New Delhi-110023
E-mail: cr.nhrc@nic.in

2. Nongthombam Biren Singh
Manipur CM Office, Secretariat,
Imphal, Manipur – 795001.
Tel: +91 385-2450137,
Fax No:+91 385-2451398

3. L.M. Khaute
IPS Director General of Police (DGP),
Manipur Police Headquarters
Imphal -97500.
Manipur.
Tel: +91 0385 2451166
Fax: +91 0385 2449825
Email: dgp-mnp@nic.in

4. Michel Forst

Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson, United Nations Office at Geneva
CH 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Fax: +41(0) 22.917.90.06
Email: urgent-action@ohchr.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme

Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia )

Asian Human Rights Commission
G/F
52 Princess Margaret Road
Ho Man Tin, Kowloon
Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) 2698-6367
Web: www.humanrights.asia
twitter/youtube/facebook: humanrightsasia




* This Press Release was sent to e-pao.net by Asian Human Rights Commission who can be contacted at http://humanrights.asia
This Press Release was posted on April 13 2018

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