Prominent international figures support appeal for release of human rights defenders as India faces Covid emergency
Over 50 prominent international figures support appeal for release of human rights defenders from India’s overcrowded prisons as Covid spreads in jails. Read full statement/signatories:
We urge the immediate release of human rights defenders in India into safe conditions
Accounting for almost a third of deaths from Covid-19 worldwide, the situation in India is grave. We are alarmed that a number of human rights defenders who are currently awaiting trial in Indian jails have developed serious health issues in jail owing to over-congestion and neglect, absence of appropriate medical care, and deplorable hygiene conditions.
Press Release: Prominent international figures urge release of human rights defenders in India
By International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India)
Over 50 eminent international figures including members of several European parliaments academics, lawyers, Nobel laureates, civil society leaders, and diasporic organisations have signed a joint statement urging the Indian government to show compassion and responsibility in the current Covid emergency, and call upon the authorities to release all arrested human rights defenders into safe conditions in the light of the dire threats to their health given the spread of Covid in Indian prisons.
The statement expresses deep concern at the growing numbers of the prison population affected by Covid-19, the overcrowded prisons, and inadequate access to health care. Additionally, Covid rules in prison make it impossible for family members to be informed of the health status of their loved ones nor provide the medical and personal care that is necessary. The statement highlights the humanitarian emergency and points to the need to act decisively to avert further tragedy. Highlighting the case of the Bhima Koregaon 16, the statement warns that the failure to release these human rights defenders would be in violation of the state’s constitutional duty to safeguard the life of these citizens.
Among the signatories are the José Antonio Guevara-Bermúdez, Former President of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Nobel Laureates Olga Tokarczuk and Wole Soyinka, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as well as numerous prominent lawyers and members of parliament from Germany, UK, Spain, Ireland and other countries.
The international appeal is an initiative of International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India), a collective of diasporic Indian academics and professionals from around the world. It states that under the present dire circumstances, release from pre-trial detention is the only way to protect the prisoners’ rights to live and die in dignity, given that legal recourse takes a long time and all of the arrested are under pre-trial detention.
The statement accompanies a broader open letter endorsed by nearly 1,200 academics and academic associations worldwide, also calling for the release of jailed academics and civil liberties activists in India. Following the recent revelations that the evidence in the case was planted on the defendants’ computers using malware, international legal bodies such as the American Bar Association, and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders, as well as several academic and diasporic organizations have also underlined the call for their release.