Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gujarat government agents now violating UN regulations?

Concluding her fact-finding visit to India, Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief of the United Nations Human Rights Council, made a formal statement on 20 March 2008 in Delhi. After the usual politenesses, she said among other things:"I am disturbed that at various meetings with members of the civil society
during my visit in Gujarat, plain-clothed Government agents took names
of all my NGO interlocutors and also made their presence felt afterwards.
On several occasions, I had to insist that police officers leave the room
during my NGO meetings. The terms of reference of fact-finding missions
by Special Rapporteurs (see UN Doc.E/CN.4/1998/45, Appendix V) are very
clear in this regard. These terms of reference guarantee confidential and
unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons as well as
assurance by the Government that no persons, official or private individuals
who have been in contact with the Special Rapporteur in relation to the
mandate will for this reason suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be
subjected to judicial proceedings."

If plain clothes or, alternatively, uniformed government agents were present during the UN Special Rapporteur's investigations, this is both astonishing and alarming.

India is not only a signatory to all the UN treaties, conventions and so on, but is also an aspiring member of the Security Council. We need not only to act at all times in conformity with all UN rules and regulations, but we need also to be SEEN to be conformity with all international norms.

In contrast, we have now been held to account and publicly found wanting.

First, I must point out that the UN Special Rapporteur failed in her duty to ensure that her investigations were actually carried out in line with her terms of reference. She should have insisted on finding out and making a list of the names of the police officers and/ or plain clothes officers who were present, as well as their identification numbers, and then insisted that they be brought to book before proceeding. If this was not possible, she should have issued a press statement before the completion of her visit, stating that the government was not co-operating with her work in spite of assurances to the contrary.

Second, we need to examine ourselves. WHICH plain clothes government agents were doing these things? Were they really government agents? Or members of other, non-government, groups - intent on damaging India's international image for their own interests?

Which POLICE OFFICERS were present during the UN officer's meetings?

On whose orders were these people there?

Such officers, as well as those who ordered the uniformed or plain clothes officers to be present, ought immediately to be brought to book.

The Gujarat government needs to undertake a formal investigation to discover and publicise the facts as well as the punishments that are meted out. If it will not do so, then of course it must be clear to everyone that it is the Gujarat government itself which is involved. If that is the case, then the Central government needs to launch an investigation to find out who is or are the guilty parties so that they are brought to book, including members of the Gujarat government.

India's own Constitution, quite apart from its international reputation, is too important and too precious to be spit upon in this fashion - by anyone, let alone spit upon by the Gujarat government.

ENDS Sphere: Related Content

No comments: