Posted 2008/6/12

India: Complaints filed against human rights defenders in relation to the Peoples Tribunals on Torture

Mr. Kirity Roy

Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that complaints have been filed against human rights defenders Mr Henri Tiphagne, National Director of the National Project on Preventing Torture in India (NPPTI), Executive Director of People's Watch and Member of the National Core Group of NGOs of the National Human Rights Commission of India; Mr S. Martin, Advocate and Regional Law Officer of People's Watch in Trichirapalli; Mr G. Ganesan, State Human Rights Monitoring Officer of People's Watch in the State of Tamil Nadu; Mr Prabakar, District Human Rights Monitor of the NPPTI for Madurai District in Tamil Nadu; and Mr Kirity Roy, President of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) and State Director of the NPPTI in Howrah, Kolkata, West Bengal.

Further Information

Posted 13/06/2008 The NPPTI provides the framework for the People's Tribunals on Torture (PTT), organised by People's Watch throughout India, which aim to identify and bring about justice in cases of police torture. The PTTs are being held around India between 2 April and 13 August, and will be followed by a national PTT in Delhi in October. The NPPTI is funded, supported, and endorsed by the European Union and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung.

On 10 June 2008, a criminal complaint was reportedly filed at Taltolla Police Station against Kirity Roy. He is to be charged under sections 120[B] (criminal conspiracy); 170 (personating a public servant); 179 (refusing to answer public servant authorised to question); and 229 (personation of juror or assessor) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The charges relate to the organisation of the PTT in Moulali, Kolkata on 9 and 10 June.

On 23 May 2008 invitation letters to the PTT were issued to all the relevant officials, including the Police Commissioner of Kolkata. On 7 June 2008 police officials visited the offices of MASUM but refused to accept the written explanation on the legality of the public event. During the hearings a jury of human rights defenders, jurists and medical personnel sat on the panels, which were co-chaired by the Former Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, Mr Justice Malay Sengupta and the Former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Dr Mohini Giri. Following the public tribunal a plain-clothed policeman, named as Mr Kamal Naskar, began taking photographs. Once questioned by the organisers he informed them that he was there under the instruction of the Detective Department of Kolkata Police.

On 12 June 2008, at approximately 4.00 pm, the offices of MASUM were raided by police officers from the Detective Department of Kolkata Police. Seven police vehicles arrived at the offices and ten plain clothes officers entered, while ten armed officers stood guard outside. A search warrant for the raid had been issued by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Kolkata. During the raid the officers removed copies of letter pads belonging to MASUM, the PTT and the NPPTI. They also took copies of the invitation letters that had been sent to officials, and payment records for the marriage hall where the PTT had been conducted. Police officers also attempted to take copies of account statements and budgets from the MASUM computers but Kirity Roy objected on the grounds that they were not authorised to do so, and the officers refrained from proceeding. The raid lasted for approximately four hours. Prior to the PTT in Kolkata, a tribunal had been held in Tamil Nadu. On 30 May 2008, a complaint was registered by Sub-Inspector Vijayan in Tamil Nadu against Messrs Henri Tiphagne, S. Martin, G. Ganesan and Prabakar under sections 147, 342, 366, 323, 332 and 225 of the IPC for rioting, wrongful confinement, kidnapping/abducting, voluntarily causing hurt, deterring a public servant from his duty, and resistance/obstruction of lawful apprehension of another person (Crime number 785/08). One of the cases heard by the PTT the previous day concerned acts of torture, for which Sub-Inspector Vijayan was allegedly responsible, against prisoners in police custody on 2 March 2008. Because of People Watch's intervention in this case Sub-Inspector Vijayan had been transferred from Kamuthi police station to Kenikarai police station.

Moreover, through the efforts of G. Ganesan, Mr Prabakar and Henri Tiphagne the release of PTT participant and former victim of torture, Mr Ayyanar, was achieved after he had been arrested by a police party headed by Sub-Inspector Vijayan. On 29 May 2008 Mr Ayyanar is said to have been apprehended by men in civilian clothing who took him to a lodge rather than to a police station. He was scheduled to give evidence the following day at the PTT. He was released a few hours after his arrest. On 30 May 2008, Sub-Inspector Vijayan admitted that the arrest had been an error based on mistaken identity. The same day a case was also registered against three police officers who were in the group of police headed by Sub-Inspector Vijayan, largely due to the efforts of Mr S. Martin. On 30 May 2008 these police officers had reportedly attempted to arrest PTT participants and beaten them with their handcuffs. They were not wearing uniforms or carrying police identification.

Front Line believes that Kirity Roy, Henri Tiphagne, S. Martin, G. Ganesan and Mr Prabakar have been targeted as a result of their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular their work to expose police torture. Front Line is concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Kirity Roy, Henri Tiphagne, S. Martin, G. Ganesan and Mr Prabakar.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information