Global Figures Seek Release of Jailed Human Rights Defenders Including Bhima Koregaon Detainees

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The statement by over 50 prominent personalities is accompanied by a broader open letter endorsed by nearly 1,200 academics and academic associations worldwide

Team Clarion 

NEW DELHI — Over 50 eminent international figures including members of several European parliaments, academics, lawyers, Nobel laureates, civil society leaders, and diasporic organisations have issued a joint statement calling on Indian government to consider the release of all incarcerated human rights defenders and activists in view of the safety concerns amidst the current Covid-19 emergency.

The statement urges the Modi government to show compassion and responsibility towards political prisoners amidst the unprecedented health crisis. The statement warned that there are dire threats to their health given the spread of Covid in Indian prisons.

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 statement was put out by International Solidarity for Academic Freedom in India (InSAF India), a collective of diasporic Indian academics and professionals from around the world.

The statement said the signatories “express 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 further said.

It highlighted the humanitarian emergency and pointed to the need to act “decisively to avert further tragedy”.

Underlining the case of the Bhima Koregaon, the statement warns: “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”.

The statement said that under present conditions due to Covid-19 pandemic, “the 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 is accompanied by a broader open letter endorsed by nearly 1,200 academics and academic associations worldwide that also sought the release of jailed academics and civil liberties activists in India.

After the recent reports that revealed that the evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case was allegedly planted on the computer of one of the accused, the global legal and rights bodies such as the American Bar Association, Amnesty International and Frontline Defenders, have called for the release of the human rights activists held on terror charges in the case.

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