EU HR panel slams India for arresting human rights activists

Brussels: In a severe indictment of the Modi government, the European Parliament has come down heavily on Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, over the systematic violation of human rights in India and misuse of anti-terror laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Chairperson of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), Maria Arena, shot off a letter to Amit Shah on May 28, expressing her concerns over the arrest of rights activists Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde.

“It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalized communities,” said Arena in her letter. She slammed the Modi government for portraying anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protesters as terrorists.

“Equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been used to silence them,” she noted pointing out that by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.

The letter further stated that to date, the European Parliament had noted that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, had been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests.

“This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam, who were recently arrested by the police,” the letter noted.

Against this background, there are also increased fears that the legislation might confer discretionary powers upon state agencies.

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