Issues related to AFSPA were raised by five countries, Germany, US in the advance questions prior to the session and Norway, Belgium and Pakistan during the session itself.
Report By Keisham Donny
India’s human rights record was reviewed in the UN Human Rights Council on November 10, 2022 in Geneva under the 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). During the review, 130 member states made 339 recommendations highlighting some of the most urgent human rights concerns in the country including the protection of minority communities and vulnerable groups, tackling gender-based violence, upholding civil society freedoms, protecting human rights defenders, and ending torture in custody.
Representing Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Northeast India, Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert (HRA), Khuraijam Athouba of the International Peace and Social Advancement (IPSA) and C Lalreruata of the Zo Indigenous Forum participated in the review.
In a press conference held on Tuesday at the HRA Conference Hall, Kwakeithel Thiyam Leikai, Imphal, Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director, HRA said that CSOs are wondering whether or not these recommendations would actually be implemented on the ground keeping in mind India’s past lukewarm response on the UPR process. “Nevertheless, it is up to the stakeholders of human rights and the public, and how they manoeuvre these recommendations in their movement for a true democratic society”, he added.
“In Assam, Human Rights Cell of Touch of Humanity conducted a live public viewing of the review at ICCI Office at Mothghoria, Guwahati. In Manipur, local TV Networks including EliteTV, ISCOM, ISTV and TOMTV live streamed the proceeding. The next day the Centre for Human Rights and Duties conducted a public screening of the review along with a lecture of the UPR process at Manipur University”, said Babloo during the press meet.
As done in the 2nd and 3rd cycles, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the United Nations (CSCHR) submitted a stakeholder report for the 4th cycle of UPR, available online in the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as JS47_UPE41_IND_E_Main.”, Babloo stated.
Some of the issues with specific relevance to Northeast region includes the recommendation of ratification of Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention 1989 (ILO Convention 169) by Paraguay.
Estonia, Canada, Croatia, Czechia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Belgium, Lithuania, Italy and Greece, recommend India to respect freedom of expression. The issue of AFSPA was raised by five countries, namely Germany and US in the advance question prior to the session and Norway, Belgium and Pakistan during the session itself.
Germany, in the advanced question prior to the session, raised the issue of AFSPA as the first issue in the following words:
“Does the Indian government consider to revise the Armed Forces (Special Powers Act) with a view to bringing it into compliance with obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and fighting impunity?”
United States of America also raised the issue in its advanced question in the following words:
“We note the Government of India’s rollback of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to promote accountability and justice. We continue to have concerns about section 197 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure, which does not fully address accountability for security forces and prevents victims from accessing justice. During the session, USA who spoke as 92nd speaker stated in its 2nd recommendation to “Ratify the Convention Against Torture and to prosecute those responsible for human rights abuses”.
Norway, as the 53rd speaker, in its 4th recommendation stated: “Revise the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Act to ensure compliance with obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and consider reducing the Act’s geographic scope.”
Pakistan, as the 55th speaker, in its 5th recommendation stated: “Repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, National Security Act, Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, and the National Register of Citizens.”
Belgium, as 109th speaker, in its 4th recommendation stated: “Withdraw the Armed Forces Act 1958 and 1990 from the districts where it remains fully or partially in jurisdiction.”
Speaking at the press conference, Khuraijam Athouba, Vice President of IPSA stated that although these recommendations have no legal binding for implementation by India, they carry moral as well as political obligations and hopes to see their implementation on the ground.
Further, Babloo stated, “In its national report submitted to the UN ahead of its UPR review, the Indian government claimed it is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. However, in the past UPR cycles, India has ignored important recommendations, including effort to ensure accountability of its security forces, protect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“CSO of the Northeast region engaging with the UPR process hope that Government of India accept these recommendations and not simply Take Note of the recommendations. What actually matters to the citizens is the implementation of human rights on the ground”, said Babloo.
The CSO of the Northeast involved in the UPR process are:
- Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup (AMKIL)
- Arunachal Citizen Rights (ACR)
- Borok People’s Human Rights Organisation (BPHRO)
- International Peace and Social Advancement (IPSA)
- Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM)
- Human Rights Alert (HRA)
- Human Rights Defender, Manipur (HRDM)
- Human Rights Initiative (HRI)
- Indigenous Perspective (IP)
- Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR)
- Youth Collective Manipur (YCM)
- Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF)