Maria Arena, Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI), has written to Indian Home Minister Amit Shah raising serious concerns about the manner in which human rights activists, peaceful protesters and sundry dissenters are being thrown behind bars and being silenced using provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
The DROI is a parliamentary body that actively monitors human rights developments across the globe and publicly advocates in favour of the respect for fundamental rights. In her letter Arena states, “…we are closely following the protection of human rights defenders in India and wish to express serious concerns about the recent arrests of Anand Teltumbde and Gautam Navlakha by the National Investigative Agency. It is particularly alarming to note that human rights defenders cannot conduct advocacy activities, notably in favor of India’s poorest and most marginalized communities, without becoming subject to intimidation and harassment, but equally worrying is the fact that terrorism charges, including under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), are used to silence them. As pointed out by United Nations Special Procedures, this clearly represents a violation of international human rights standards.”
The letter further states, “To date, the European Parliament has noticed that various forms of legitimate peaceful protests against laws, policies and governmental actions, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, have been portrayed as terrorist activities under this legislation, resulting in a number of arrests under this umbrella. This is notably the case for human rights activists such as Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr Kafeel Khan; Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam who were recently arrested by the Police.”
Elaborating on the concerns regarding UAPA it states, “Indeed, the vague definition of ‘unlawful activities’ and ‘membership of terrorist organisations’ could allow for wide discretion by the government in applying the law. Such a process would substantially weaken judicial oversight and the protection of civil liberties in the country. Consequently, we strongly believe that measures should be urgently taken to stop impeding and criminalising the work of human rights defenders by means of overly broad national security legislation and to respect their freedoms of association and expression.”
The entire letter may be read here: