HRW says India ignored key recommendations

Urges New Delhi to act on concerns raised at UPR

Geneva, September 23 (KMS): The Indian government did not accept a number of key human rights recommendations on September 21, 2017 at its United Nations review in Geneva, Human Rights Watch has said.

The HRW in a statement posted on its website said that the Indian government should promptly act on the recommendations raised by the UN member countries during the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

It said, India’s government responded on September 21 to the recommendations made by other UN member countries on May 4 during India’s third periodic review. It said that the Indian government was unwilling to accept important recommendations for greater accountability of its armed forces, ensuring freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and abolishing the death penalty.

“In the face of countless attacks on free speech and threats to marginalised communities, the Indian government has chosen to be in denial,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.

The HRW statement said that at the May 4 UN Human Rights Council’s session, 112 countries made a total of 250 recommendations. On September 21, the Indian government accepted 152, including commitments made toward sustainable development goals aimed at alleviating poverty, improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and strengthening protections for children and women.

“Thirty countries called on India to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture, a treaty it signed two decades ago but never ratified. Even as the Indian government denied the existence of torture at the May meeting, saying “the concept of torture is completely alien to our culture and it has no place in the governance of the nation,” it said that it remained committed to ratifying the treaty. However, India made a similar commitment at the last UPR cycle in 2012 when the recommendation was made by 17 countries, and yet failed to take any steps to fulfill it,” said an HRW report.

The statement said that in a recent report on deaths in police custody, the HRW found that torture is frequently used to gather information or coerce confessions.

At the UPR outcome meeting, India’s National Human Rights Commission pointed to the country’s failure to implement several recommendations adopted in the previous UPR cycle, it said.

“Regarding several pressing human rights concerns, the government’s outcome report merely “noted” the recommendations, drawing criticism from several countries and domestic and international rights groups. In the past, the Indian government has consistently ignored recommendations that it only noted,” the statement said.

“For instance, concerns over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that provides soldiers who commit abuses effective immunity from prosecution, was also “noted” in previous UPR sessions. But the government has refused to repeal the law despite recommendations from numerous independent commissions in India,” it added.

The HRW said, mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against minority communities, especially Muslims and Dalits, have become a serious threat. It pointed out that in the first seven months of 2017, there were 26 attacks, and seven people were killed over rumors that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef. The government has failed to prosecute those responsible for such attacks, and at the same time several BJP leaders have made incendiary remarks against minorities, and in support of Hindu nationalism, it said. “Fifteen countries raised concerns over such increasing violence, recommending that India should better protect these vulnerable populations and freedom of religion, and prosecute attacks against them. However, the Indian government was unwilling to make any commitments,” it deplored.

“The Indian government’s claims of respect for the UPR process mean nothing if it simply brushes aside important recommendations at a time when the country’s long cherished freedoms and its poor and vulnerable are at great risk,” Ganguly said.

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