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08 April, 2010

Case against human rights activists for organizing people's tribunal

Mr Kirity Roy, Secretary of Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), who was associated with the European Union funded National Project on Prevention of Torture in India, was arrested by the Anti Terrorist Cell of Kolkata Police from his residence in Serampore on Wednesday. Although the police sought his remand, a magistrate released on bail in the evening.

Roy”s arrest was in connection with a case registered against him and some others for organizing a People’s Tribunal on Torture in Kolkata on June 9 and 10, 2008.

People Watch, the Madurai-based human rights organization, which was in charge of the National Project had organized hearings by people’s tribunals in different states of India.

Roy has been charged with offences under Section 170 (Personating a public officer), Section 179 (refusing to answer public servant authorized to question), Section 229 (Personation of a juror or assessor) and Section 120B (Criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code..

Roy was only one of the organizers of the People’s Tribunal on Torture. The panelists included Ms. Pamela Philipose, Executive Director, Women Feature Service, Mr. Ashok Chakravarti, former Senior Director, NHRC, Justice Malay Sengupta, former Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, Dr. Mohini Giri, former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Mr. Ashutosh Mukherjee, former District and Sessions Judge, Dr. Tapas Bhattacharjya, Dr. Satyajit Ash, M.D., Psychiatrist, MON Foundation, Dr. Sreemantee Chaudhuri, Psychiatrist, Dr. A. K. Gupta, Head of Forensic Medicine, Calcutta Medical College.

Roy challenged the validity of the FIR against him in the Calcutta High Court (Kirity Roy versus State of West Bengal & others vide WP No. 25022(W) of 2008). On August 26, 2009 Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that police investigation was necessary to find out whether the petitioner organized a parallel judiciary. Roy filed an appeal (MAT 1219/2009) along with a stay application (C.A.N. 10511/2009) in the Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Ranjan Shah and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh. The Division Bench of Calcutta High Court is scheduled to hear the case today (April 8).

Henti Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch, writes:

I personally collected facts of the case over phone from Mr. Kirity Roy, who was released on bail at 5.00 p.m. According to him, he was arrested at 9.45 a.m. by policemen in plainclothes, Anti Terrorist Police, Detective Police from Kolkata along with Serampore Police from his residence. They took him to the Headquarters of Kolkata Police at 11.00 a.m. and then for medical examination at the Kolkata Medical College. At 2.30 p.m. he was produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for remand. A dozen lawyers fought for his bail. The State was determined to ensure that he was remanded and therefore they produced charge-sheet hurriedly along with the Prime Accused, Mr. Kirity Roy. But he was granted bail at 5.00 p.m.

The co-accused in the case are the then State Law Officer of the National Project, the State Legal Associate, the State Program Associate, three District Human Rights Monitor and myself, Director of the National Project.

The National Project on Preventing Torture in India ended on December 31, 2008.

We urge the authorities to:
• Drop the case against the above mentioned human rights defenders immediately and unconditionally
• Guarantee in all circumstances their physical security and psychological integrity;
• Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with Article 12.2 (“the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”);
• More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.

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