Parliamentarians and trade unionists establish solidarity committee for arrested human rights activists, lawyers, intellectuals and cultural workers in India
Press Release Nov 30, 2020
Swiss parliamentarians and trade unionists have formed a solidarity committee for political prisoners in India. With this they protest against the criminalization of human rights activists and government critics in India and demand their release. They also call on the Indian government to ensure that they are released, that irregularities in the proceedings against the arrested persons are investigated and that rights of the prisoners are fully guaranteed. The committee was initiated by the Solidarity organization SOLIFONDS, which has been in contact with the well-known arrested lawyer and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj for years.
India has recently seen a conspicuously large number of human rights activists and government critics accused under anti-terrorism laws. The government accuses them, to belong to an antinational conspiracy. The best-known case is the so-called “Bhima Koregaon” case.* So far 16 intellectuals, artists, lawyers, professors, human rights defenders and an 83-year-old Jesuit priest have been arrested. One of them, the committed human rights lawyer and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj, has worked closely with temporary workers at the Swiss cement group Holcim (today LafargeHolcim) and supports them in claiming their rights. The SOLIFONDS and some members of the solidarity committee have known Sudha Bharadwaj for a long time. Sudha Bharadwaj and other detainees have been in prison for over two years. What they have in common is that they are working for disenfranchised and marginalized people in India – especially Dalits, Adivasis, informal workers, women – and express criticism of government policy. No proceedings have taken place so far nor is there any credible evidence against the accused. Nevertheless, the arrested activists were denied bail, despite the high risk exposure to the dangers of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Well-known personalities in Switzerland – including national councillors (Swiss MP’s) Tamara Funiciello, Sandra Locher Benguerel, Mattea Meyer, Fabian Molina, Jon Pult, Cédric Wermuth, Vania Alleva-President of the Swiss trade Union UNIA, Katharina Prelicz-Huber-President of Swiss Trade Union vpod, president of Swiss Trade Union Confederation USS Pierre-Yves Maillard, emeritus professor of sociology Ueli Mäder and emeritus professor of history Jakob Tanner, the Association of Democratic Jurists and SOLIFONDS – have come together to form the Solidarity Committee to protest against this systematic violation of human rights. They are concerned that in India, government critics have been increasingly criminalized in recent times. The committee with a letter submitted to the Indian Embassador have called upon the Indian Government to release those arrested in the “Bhima Koregaon” case. Furthermore, the government should ensure that irregularities in the arrested persons’ conduct are investigated by an independent body and that the rights of the prisoners are fully guaranteed. Human rights, especially freedom of expression, must be guaranteed.