In a statement concluding her January 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.
Ms. Sekaggya visited five states in India and spoke with a wide range of government officials as well as civil society members. She heard numerous testimonies about human rights defenders who had been killed, tortured, threatened, arbitrarily arrested, detained, forcibly displaced an more because of their work.
Ms. Sekaggya pointed out that Dalit human rights defenders faced particular risks and ostracism and that the central and state government as well as the National Human Rights Commission must do more to protect the rights of human rights defenders. While she praised the legal framework in India – including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, which is meant to protect Dalits – the Special Rapporteur noted that despite such laws, there are “widespread deficiencies in their full implementation.”
Among her many recommendations she urged the National and state human rights commissions to implement EU guidelines on human rights defenders and “monitor the full implementation of recommendations made by UN human rights mechanisms, including special procedures mandate-holders, Treaty Bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.” Over the past years numerous other special rapporteurs as well as treaty bodies have stated concern over Dalit human rights.
She also urged the international community to continually monitor the situation of particularly vulnerable groups of human rights defenders and support their work through interventions before central and state institutions. She furthermore expressed concern over India’s Foreign Contribution Regulations Act that “may be used to censor non-governmental organisations that are critical of Governments policies.