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India: UN experts urge corrective action to protect human rights and end attacks against minorities in lead up to elections

07 March 2024

GENEVA (7 March 2024) – UN human rights experts* today sounded the alarm over reports of attacks on minorities, media and civil society in India and called for urgent corrective action as the country prepares to hold elections in early 2024.

“We are alarmed by continuing reports of attacks on religious, racial and ethnic minorities, on women and girls on intersecting grounds, and on civil society, including human rights defenders and the media,” the UN experts said, expressing concern that the situation is likely to worsen in the coming months ahead of national elections.

They noted reports of violence and hate crimes against minorities; dehumanising rhetoric and incitement to discrimination and violence; targeted and arbitrary killings; acts of violence carried out by vigilante groups; targeted demolitions of homes of minorities; enforced disappearances; the intimidation, harassment and arbitrary and prolonged detention of human rights defenders and journalists; arbitrary displacement due to development mega-projects; and intercommunal violence, as well as the misuse of official agencies against perceived political opponents.

“We call on India to implement its human rights obligations fully and set a positive example by reversing the erosion of human rights and addressing recurring concerns raised by UN human rights mechanisms,” the experts said.

They deplored the low level of response from India to their communications, noting that of the 78 communications sent by UN human rights experts over the past five years, from 7 March 2019 to 6 March 2024, only 18 received replies from the Government that could be made public. During the reporting period between 1980 and 12 May 2023, 445 cases referred to India by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) under its humanitarian procedure remained pending, with the fate and whereabouts of the alleged victims unknown (A/HRC/54/22).

The experts also regretted that despite India’s standing invitation to UN Special Procedures since 2011, there have been no country visits since 2017, with 15 active pending requests by UN human rights experts to which there is no reply from the Government on their permission to conduct official visits to the country.

They urged India to take concrete measures to address concerns raised in their previous communications and reports.

The experts called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to monitor the evolving human rights situation in India, and for the Human Rights Council to consider measures that could contribute to the prevention of human rights violations in the country, in line with its mandate under General Assembly resolution 60/251.

“In light of continuing reports of violence and attacks against religious, racial and ethnic minorities, and other grave human rights issues, and the apparent lack of response by authorities to concerns raised, we are compelled to express our grave concern, especially given the need for a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections in accordance with the early warning aspect of our mandates,” they said.

*The experts: Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, its causes and consequences; Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, and Laura Nyirinkindi, Working group on discrimination against women and girls; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ashwini K.P., Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, and Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; Nicolas Levrat, Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Cecilia M. Bailliet, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on the right to housing.

The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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