The Kashmiri leader died at a hospital in Jammu while he was in detention under PSA
NEW DELHI — The United Nations Human Rights experts have raised serious concern over the allegations of torture and subsequent death of Hurriyat leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai.
Sehrai died in May 2021 at a hospital in Jammu of health complications while he was in detention under the controversial Public Safety Act.
The four special rapporteurs of the top global body have demanded separate investigations into the claims of Sehrai’s custodial death allegedly due to torture.
Meanwhile, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have expressed concern over the circumstances around the death of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani calling it a “serious human rights violations” inconsistent with Indian commitment to uphold “international human rights obligations.” The group demanded an end of the harassment being allegedly meted out to Geelani’s family.
The letter communicated by the UN rapporteurs to the Indian government comes days after they raised concern over cases against journalist in Kashmir but the latter has failed to give any response within the stipulated time frame of 60 days.
Sehrai who died at 77 was top leader of the Geelani led faction of Hurriyat conference, an amalgam of separatist groups in Kashmir.
The police allegedly pressured the family to bury Sehrai in his ancestral village in Kupwara district even as he had wished to be laid to rest at the Martyrs graveyard in Srinagar. Following his burial his two sons were booked and jailed under the UAPA, a law used against terrorists, for allegedly raising “anti-national” slogans.
The letter sent to Centre in July urged the authorities to “undertake a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the death in custody of Mr. Sehrai so as to determine and document the reason for his arrest, its factual and legal basis, his treatment in detention, including any indication that he may have been tortured or otherwise mistreated, and the cause of his death”.
“We are also concerned by the reported lack of access to adequate medical care while he was in prison, given his fragility and known physical conditions,” it further reads.
The UN experts have asked India to provide information concerning legal grounds for Sehrar’s arrest “and for his alleged subjection to solitary confinement and secret (incommunicado) Detention”.
It also asked for information on “the measures taken to take care of his health while in detention, given his old age and his declared ailments he was suffering from, including medical treatment and medication.”
“Please provide the details and, where available, the results of any investigation and judicial or other inquiries which may have been carried out, or which are foreseen, into what seems to have been the enforced disappearance and the death in custody of Mr. Sehrai,” it reads.
According to reports, Sehrai was allowed to call his family every other week in January this year. However, his last call to the family was in April 2020. “During those phone calls, he complained about his deteriorating health, of being placed in solitary confinement and for lack of access to adequate medical care,” the communication reads. “Mr. Sehrai suffered from hypertension and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), and reportedly had no access to his life-saving medication while in detention.”
The letter urged “all necessary measures, provided by law and the human rights obligations of India, be taken to review the cause of the arrest, detention and death of Mr Sehrai; to ensure that the human rights of his two detained sons are respected; and in the event that the investigations support or suggest that they are correct, to ensure the accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations”.