The National Human Rights Commission in India has directed the Tamil Nadu government to compensate five Dalit human rights defenders who were unlawfully arrested in August 2010. The Commission has held that the police officers have committed grave human rights violations against the victims, and that it is a case fit for payment of compensation to the victims. The five human rights defenders were trainees at People’s Watch Tamil Nadu and where on a fact finding mission regarding allegations of torture. The NHRC has also found that the torture allegations they were investigating were true.
The NHRC has recommended to advice the Government to withdraw the case since the defenders were arrested in a false case and they had to remain in judicial custody. They have further recommended that the Government of Tamil Nadu initiates departmental enquiry against the errant police officers responsible for the arrest of 5 defenders.
Alongside a wide array of other networks and organisations including The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), a coalition of human rights groups, IDSN strongly condemned the arrest and wrote to the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice Shri K.G. Balakrishnan, and urged them to withdraw the case.
Towards the end of May the verdict was delivered in letters from the National Human Rights Commission’s Law Division to these organisations (letter to IDSN – (Upload and link in letter)). Executive Director People’s Watch, Mr. Henri Tiphagne, welcomes this verdict and comments that this is the type of action he hopes to see in future from the NHRC.
People’s Watch is submitting a memorandum to the Government of Tamil Nadu and have launched a blog, which will be updated with the latest developments in this case.
In a statement concluding her January 2011 visit to India, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, raised particular concern for the situation of Dalit human rights defenders and noted widespread deficiencies in implementation of laws to protect human rights defenders.
In February The All India Network of NGOs and Individuals working with National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNi) published a Report on the National Human Rights Commission compliance with the Paris Principles.
The five human rights activists were arrested on false charges on 15 August at Veeravanallur police station, Tamil Nadu, while investigating a torture case.
The activists from the Dalit Foundation – four of whom are themselves Dalits – were taking part in a training programme on Dalit human rights monitoring, organised by the human rights organisation People’s Watch. The human rights defenders had gone to the police station to enquire about the lack of investigation in the torture of Suresh, a Dalit youth, allegedly by an officer serving at the same station.
The arrests were widely condemned. In a public statement, Amnesty International has expressed concern that the charges are politically motivated and has called on the Tamil Nadu government to drop the false charges and immediately release the five persons.