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Illegal Detainment and Assault of Human Rights Defender by State Human Rights Commission

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An Indian human rights defender was attacked by employees of the Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission and illegally detained on reportedly on false charges. FORUM-ASIA condemns these actions and expresses concern over the increasing level of state-sponsored oppression towards the human rights movement in the state.

FORUM-ASIA condemns the arrest of Mr. Subash Mohapatra, the Director of the human rights organisation Forum for Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy (FFDA) based in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India.

Mr. Subash Mohapatra, a human rights defender from India was illegally detained and arrested by police in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, on Tuesday 17 July 2007. He was charged under Sections 186 (obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions), 294 (obscene acts and songs), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. The arrest took place after Mr. Mohapatra was assaulted by employees of the Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a government institution mandated to uphold human rights within Chhattisgarh state.

FORUM-ASIA strongly urges the government of India to conduct an investigation of the incident. FORUM-ASIA also demands that Mr. Mohapatra be acquitted of all charges.

Mr. Mohapatra has filed 300 cases of human rights violations with the SHRC since 2000. According to information released by FFDA, he was targeted by employees of the SHRC, particularly by the Joint Secretary Mr. Dilip K Bhatt and his clerk Mr. Binod Agrawal, for filing too many cases. Allegedly, they demanded a bribe of 2000 rupees, with the ultimatum that all cases filed by Mr. Mohapatra would be terminated. Upon the refusal to pay the bribe, he was subjected to a physical assault by a group of men in the SHRC itself. He was then arrested by police without a warrant or charge. While detained, Mr. Mohapatra was interrogated for his alleged connection with Naxalites. He was finally released on bail at 10.30pm the same day.1

FFDA have challenged the accountability of the SHRC in the past, in the form of an open letter in response to extra-judicial killings in Chhattisgarh. Whether the attack on Mr. Mohapatra at the SHRC is in direct response to this incident remains unclear; however it is indicative of an ineffective state commission that perpetuates an atmosphere of fear. Referring to the pledges made by India before the United Nation Human Rights Council election in 2006 and 2007, a clear commitment was made to “encourage efforts by civil society seeking to protect and promote human rights.” That pledge has been undermined by the incident that took place at the Chhattisgarh SHRC and the arrest of Mr. Mohapatra through foisting false charges.

Mr. Mohapatra’s case is by no means an isolated incident. The judicial detainment of health care and human rights activist Binayak Sen, general secretary of Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), since May 2007 also reflets Chhattisgarh’s crackdown on human rights defenders. The state is quick to link human rights and civil liberties-related activities to the activities of Naxalites, highlighting the increase in state-sponsored oppression on the human rights movement in Chhattisgarh.2

FORUM-ASIA is appalled that a defender of the local human rights movement could be harassed in such a way by a human rights commission and arrested by the police on false charges. The government of India needs to abide by the UN Declaration on Human Rights as a State party to the United Nations. Article 8 of the Declaration stresses that human rights defenders “[have] the right…to submit to government bodies and agencies…criticism and proposals for improving their functioning [for the] promotion and protection and realisation of human rights”.3 Furthermore, the SHRC needs to respect the principle that “national institution shall be vested with competence to promote and protect human rights”4, not to hamper and violate human rights.

We first and foremost demand that all charges against Mr. Subash Mohapatra be withdrawn. In addition, FORUM-ASIA calls for an independent body to investigate the incident that took place at the Chhattisgarh SHRC. All guilty parties must be held accountable under the law and justice must prevail.

Anselmo Lee
Executive Director

Read full text of Statement (in .pdf).

For further information, please contact
Mr. Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA, +662 391 8801 (ext. 502),
Ms. Emerlynne Gil, Human Rights Defenders Program, +662 391 8801 (ext. 606),
Ms. Pooja Patel, India Country Focal Point, +662 391 8801 (ext. 604)


1 FFDA Director Subash Mohapatra Arrested,
2 Activists demand release of Chhattisgarh PUCL leader,
3 Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organ of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998.
4 Principles relating to the Status of national Institutions, Adopted by General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993.