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01 March, 2011

FORUM-Asia defends Teesta Setalvad's right to contact UN body

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has described the Supreme Court order barring Teesta Setalvad of the Citizens for Justice and Peace from communicating to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)as a clear case of reprisal against a woman human rights defender who cooperated with a UN agency.

In a communication, Forum=Asia refers to the Supreme Court order asking Ms. Setalvad to stop communicating to the UN OHCHR regarding the investigation of the Gulbarg Society massacre, in which 69 people were killed, and says:

On 5 October 2010, Ms. Setalvad wrote a letter to Mr. R. K. Raghavan, the Chairman of the SIT, regarding the lack of protection for Mr. S. M. Vora, a senior advocate appearing for eyewitnesses and survivors of the massacre. She informed him that Mr. Vora has received threatening phone calls. The copy of this letter was sent to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

On 7 October 2010, Ms. Setalvad wrote another letter to Mr. Raghavan regarding the lack of protection for herself since she has also been facing false allegations filed by a Mr. Rais Khan Pathan, a former employee of the Citizens for Justice and Peace. Mr. Pathan and the SIT alleged that she had tutored several witnesses to give false testimony before the court. She furnished a copy of this letter too to the UN OHCHR.

An amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court by Mr. Harish Salve On 17 February 2011 drew its attention to Ms. Setalvad’s practice of furnishing the OHCHR copies of her letters. The Court asked her to explain this. Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, counsel of Ms. Setalvad, said she had the right to do so since the OHCHR can keep information on all matters pertaining to human rights from all over the world.

On 3 March 2011, the Court issued the written order saying Ms. Setalvad should not send any communication anymore to the OHCHR in Geneva regarding information on the proceedings surrounding the investigation of the massacre.

FORUM-ASIA believes Ms. Setalvad has every right to communicate with any UN agency including OHCHR. Article 5(c) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international level; to communicate with non-governmental or inter-governmental organizations”.

FORUM-Asia asks human rights organizations to write letters to Chief Justice of India S. H. Kapadia ( ) and the National Human Rights Commission of India (, and voicing their deep concern over the Supreme Court order and requesting them to recommend the court to drop the order and allow Ms. Setalvad to communicate with OHCHR.

For more information, please contact the Human Rights Defenders Department of FORUM-ASIA at

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