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    Posted on 24 May 2012
    Suhas Chakma

    Once in four years, India has to reply

    Suhas Chakma on how India will have a tough time before the UN Human Rights Council

    Illustration: Tim Tim Rose

    THE UNITED Nations Human Right Council is slated to review India’s human rights record on 24 May in Geneva during the 13th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The upr mechanism was introduced through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself, to review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. All countries from Liechtenstein to the US are subject to the review.

    India’s previous examination was done in May 2008. As India was one of the first countries to have been examined and the procedures were not clear, there were only very few questions on its human rights record and only 18 recommendations were made. However, on 24 May, India’s delegation led by Attorney General GE Vahanvati will face question from 87 governments who have signed up to speak during India’s examination.

    India’s 22-page National Report sadly reflects India’s anachronistic positions on human rights. It has failed to report on implementation of the pledges made for being elected to the Human Rights Council while it has nothing to report about the implementation of the recommendations made in May 2008 except inviting the UN’s special rapporteurs. The National Report widely invokes constitutional provisions and highlights the success stories but fails to acknowledge any problems. It remains to be seen as to how the Indian delegation responds to the questions from other member-states.

    In contrast, the submission of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) prepared after five regional consultations and a national consultation with NGOs, academics, officials and State Human Rights Commissions and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council is spot-on. The NHRC reported that there is no evidence that India intended to ratify the UN Convention Against Enforced Disappearances while enforced disappearance is not codified as a criminal offence in domestic law despite NHRC receiving 341 complaints of disappearance in 2010 and 338 in 2011. The government the anodyne Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 but failed to introduce the Prevention of Torture Bill as drafted by the Parliamentary Select Committee. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act remains in force in Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeastern states, conferring an impunity that often leads to the violation of human rights while India’s 2011 report on the Optional Protocol to the CRC states, ‘India does not face either international or non international armed conflict situations’. About 35 percent of the complaints to the NHRC annually are against the police but custodial justice remains a problem. The SC/STs remain particularly vulnerable despite laws to protect them, because of the indifference of public servants.

    In addition, the NGOs know about a vast spectrum of issues, from extra judicial executions to female foeticide. Further, in this age of internet, there is no scope to hide.

    Since India has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council from 1 January 2011, India’s policy on human rights issues of other countries has been gradually changing. We remained ambivalent on the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya and voted against Syria at the Security Council on 16 February. India also voted against Sri Lanka at the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council that created contentions in the region. Sri Lanka, listed as the fourth speaker, is expected to raise tough questions and make appropriate recommendations.

    UNDOUBTEDLY, THERE are very few human rights issues in the world that one does not find in India, except female genital mutilation. But its caste system, survived since the pagan era, remains unique. In such a situation, India can expect dozens of recommendations when it goes before the UN Human Rights Council.

    India should commit to address the root cause of all human rights violations in the country: impunity through the regime of prior sanction. The Supreme Court in its judgement dated 31 January in Civil Appeal No 1193 ordered that all proposals for sanction must be decided within a period of three months of the receipt of the proposal by the concerned authority. The question is if a judge considering the facts and circumstances of a case decides to prosecute an accused public servant, how can the executive without application of the same judicial mind decide otherwise? Since India is being led by none other than the attorney general, its delegation should make a commitment that all laws that undermine the supremacy of the judiciary will be repealed.

    Suhas Chakma is director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.
    [email protected]

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    Posted on 24 May 2012



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