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India: Intimidation and harassment of conveners of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice
Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that human rights defenders Dr Angana Chatterji and Advocate Parvez Imroz, conveners of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subjected to intimidation and harassment. The International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir began on 5 April 2008 and was formed by the Public Commission on Human Rights in order to investigate charges of institutionalised violence and human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Posted 23/06/2008 On 21 June 2008, Dr Angana Chatterji was followed from her hotel to the office of the Tribunal by intelligence personnel. Eight members of intelligence personnel remained outside the office throughout the day and reportedly questioned anybody who left or entered the building. The previous day Dr Angana Chatterji and Advocate Parvez Imroz were questioned by a total of twelve members of intelligence personnel; were followed after being questioned; had the Tribunal car in which they were traveling forcibly boarded by members of intelligence personnel who had not shown proof of their identification; were held at a police station for sixteen minutes; were threatened of having their tapes confiscated; and were followed once more on leaving the police station.
The Tribunal team had been visiting mass graves in Indian-administered Kashmir. On 20 June 2008, at approximately 3pm, after having visited a mass grave in Trehgan village and interviewed local people there, they stopped at a hotel in Regipora for lunch. Afterwards they were met by two men who identified themselves as personnel of Special Branch Kashmir (SBK) and Counter Intelligence Kashmir (CIK). The men interrogated the Tribunal members about who they were, what they were doing, which villages they had visited, who they had interviewed and whether Dr Angana Chatterji – who is an Indian citizen living in the United States of America – was a foreign national. Four more members of the SBK and the CIK later arrived and proceeded with questioning. A further three members of intelligence personnel continued with more questions, asking the Tribunal conveners about whether their team had taken photographs and videos where they had been. The Tribunal conveners were questioned for approximately one hour. They cooperated, answering all questions, and departed towards Srinagar, allegedly being followed by a car.
At approximately 6:40pm they were stopped in Shangargund, Sopore. Three people in civilian clothes forcibly boarded the car. When asked for identification by the Tribunal conveners, they said that they would introduce themselves at the police station. There, the conveners were again interrogated about their identity and the purpose of their visit, and were threatened with having their tapes confiscated for containing dangerous and objectionable material. Dr Angana Chatterji and Advocate Parvez Imroz pointed out that their work had been announced publicly, was peaceful and lawful, had been carried out with the consent of local people, had not involved visiting restricted areas, and that there was no lawful reason to confiscate the tapes. They were released after sixteen minutes but were followed by a red Indica car to Sangrama.
Dr Angana Chatterji had previously been harassed and intimidated soon after the Tribunal was formed. In April 2008, when leaving India for the USA after having announced the formation of the Tribunal she was stopped and intimidated at immigration control. In June 2008, when she was returning to India she was subjected to similar treatment.
Front Line believes that Dr Angana Chatterji and Advocate Parvez Imroz have been targeted as a result of their legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular their work against institutionalised violence and human rights violations in Kashmir. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Dr Angana Chatterji, Advocate Parvez Imroz and all members of the Tribunal team.