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18 September, 2009

AHRC voices concern over safety of Manipur rights defender

The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, says in a release:

The AHRC is extremely concerned for the safety of human rights defender and freelance journalist Jiten Yumnam, who it has learned, has been arrested and detained in Manipur. Jiten was reportedly taken into custody by officers from the Manipur State Police Special Commando Unit stationed at Imphal West Police Station on 14 September, while on his way to Thailand. He was scheduled to participate in an international meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The AHRC is concerned that Jiten will face fabricated charges and severe abuse in custody, and calls for his swift and safe release.


Jiten Yumnam is a human rights defender and freelance journalist and has been actively involved in campaigns involving environmental issues, and the toll taken by militarisation in Manipur.

Jiten was active in an international campaign against police officers who murdered a young man and a pregnant woman in the Manipur capital this July (please see our Urgent Appeal: UAC-098-2009). Bystander photographs proved the involvement of the Manipur State Police Commando Unit and contradicted their official report of the deaths, causing mass civil protests. We have learned that the UN Rapporteur on Torture has also written to the Government of India requesting a report on the incident, though no one has yet been arrested or any action taken against the perpetrators.

It appears that the state administration has instead started to target human rights defenders and political activists involved in the campaign. The state police have arrested several protesters so far and fabricated cases against them using the National Security Act, 1980. The Act is widely misused by the government to lengthily detain human rights defenders and political activists, and we are concerned that it will soon be used against Jiten.

According to the information received by the AHRC, neither the victim nor his family have been told of the charges against him. Unverified reports have suggested that he and seven other persons arrested on the same day will be charged with offenses punishable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is also not clear as to whether Jiten has been produced before a local magistrate (mandatory under Indian law). Previous experience in Manipur gives the AHRC strong concerns that Jiten's life could be at risk in police custody.


The AHRC and other human rights organisations working against militarisation and terrorism in Manipur has documented numerous cases in which detainees are shot dead by police or soldiers in fake encounters (or 'escapes') after arrest. Similar tactics are also used by underground terrorist groups operating in the state. The AHRC is monitoring the situation and will update you regarding any further information regarding this case.

Jiten is one of the founding members of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) , which issued a statement about his arrest and launched an online signature campaign seeking his immediate release (view and sign here). Jiten is also the Joint-Secretary of the group, Citizens' Concerns on Dam and Development, and has published several articles, including Militarisation and human rights violations in Manipur, which he co-authored for the AHRC publication, Article 2.


Please write to the authorities below seeking intervention in Jiten's arrest and calling for his safety and humane treatment while in custody.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal please click here

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