UN “disturbed” by death of Indian activist Stan Swamy in prison Human Rights News


Swamy, who was jailed for nine months without trial under India’s anti-terrorism law, died Monday at a Bombay hospital.

The United Nations says it is deeply disturbed by the death in pretrial detention of Father Stan Swamy, an 84-year-old Indian rights activist and Jesuit priest.

Swamy, who was jailed for nine months without trial under India’s anti-terrorism law, died Monday at a Bombay hospital before a bail hearing.

The priest, who campaigned for marginalized tribal communities, was arrested last year on suspicion of links to a banned radical leftist group that police accused of instigating violence in the state of Maharashtra in 2018.

“We are deeply saddened and upset by the death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.

Swamy was denied bail despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses. He was admitted to hospital in May with coronavirus and suffered a cardiac arrest over the weekend.

The priest had been detained under the Illegal Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which allows for prolonged detention to be questioned.

In this November 12, 2020 photo, a Christian nun, in the center, holds a banner and shouts slogans with other people calling for the release of Stan Swamy [File: Aijaz Rahi/AP]

Swamy was the eldest of a dozen people, mostly academics and human rights activists, accused of violence in 2018 and imprisoned under strict law.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has made use of the law to detain activists, journalists, students and others, in what critics say is an attempt to silence dissent.

“High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and independent UN experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders related to the same events with the Indian government over the past three years and have urged his release from pretrial detention, ”Throssell said.

“The high commissioner has also expressed concerns about the use of the UAPA in relation to human rights defenders, a law that Father Stan challenged in Indian courts days before he died.”

Throssell said that given the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries, including India, should release all detainees without a sufficient legal basis, including those held simply to express dissenting views. .

“We emphasize, once again, the call of the High Commissioner to the Government of India to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” he said. say the spokeswoman.

The government has previously denied in court hearings allegations of ill-treatment in Swamy and said the law should be allowed to continue its course.

But Swamy, who denied any links to any illegal group, had repeatedly asked for bail, recently informing the court in a video conference that her health had deteriorated in prison and she would soon die.

He said he had difficulty eating and drinking because of his Parkinson’s and had asked the court to allow him to use a straw and a sip.

The court accepted the request after almost three weeks.

A leader of the main opposition party in Congress, Jairam Ramesh, criticized the government for the death of “a passionate crusader for social justice”.

“Who in the Indian state apparatus will be responsible for this tragedy? Make no mistake: it was the Indian state that killed Father Stan Swamy, ”said Ramesh.

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