Concern over the arrest of human rights activists in India: Maria Arena

The European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has expressed grave concern over the arrest of human rights activists in India and the laws used for their arrest, this concern was expressed by Maria Arena MEP, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights, in a letter addressed to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah.

“We would like to express our deepest concern over the protection of human rights activists in India and the recent arrests of Gautam Nolakha and Anand Taltombade by the National Investigation Agency,” he told the Indian Home Minister.

He said it was particularly worrying and noteworthy that these human rights defenders could not speak out in favor of India’s poorest and most backward communities without being intimidated, however, it is a fact that the UAPA Prevention of Terrorism and Illegal Activities Act is being used to silence them.

Maria Arena reminded that the law passed in India violates all international human rights standards under UN procedures. At the same time, it has been noted in the European Parliament that under the law, peaceful protests and criticisms of various government measures and policies, including amendments to the citizenship law, have also been presented as terrorist activities.

Under the same law, police have also arrested Safora Zargar, Gulfsha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Miran Haider, Shafa-ur-Rehman, Dr. Kafil Khan, Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam among others.

Maria Arena, chairperson of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee continued her letter to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, adding that the background had added to the concern that the ambiguous definition of “illegal activities” and “membership of a terrorist organizations” under the law could allow state institutions to have greater discretion in enforcing the law.

In this way, judicial oversight and protection of civil liberties in the country will be significantly weakened.

Maria Arena MEP said that there is an urgent need at this time Immediate steps must be taken to prevent the criminalization of the work of human rights defenders through the broader national security legislation and the freedom of assembly and expression of these workers must be respected.

The letter called on India to do more, including new legislation, to ensure a safe and conducive environment for its civil society and to protect and promote human rights defenders.

The letter also reminded Indian Home Minister Amit Shah that the United Nations has repeatedly demanded the immediate release of prisoners of conscience in the wake of the extraordinary epidemic of COVID-19.

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