You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.

(From The Independent)

To the police in India, Paramjeet Singh is a “Sikh terrorist” recently arrested with two others for supposedly carrying explosives and handguns with the intention of disrupting the local elections that took place last month.

But to his family and numerous supporters, he is just a musician who happens to sing about human rights abuses in the Punjab and is now paying a high price for speaking out in a region of India where human rights groups are often refused access.

There are suspicions that Mr Singh, a British national and retired foundry worker from Wolverhampton, has been caught up in a miscarriage of justice. Because of the delays built in to the Indian judicial system, he could be imprisoned for up to three years before getting a chance to prove his innocence.

Today he faces a hearing in a Punjab court charged with a string of offences.

Staring at a television screen in their suburban home in Wolverhampton, Mr Singh’s wife, Balvinder Kaur, watches a recording of her husband, shackled in chains, from the news report last December that announced her husband’s arrest. “This is so hard to watch,” she says, wiping away a tear with her pink headscarf. “I can’t forget that day, I can’t believe what he’s going through.”

On 23 December, police in the Punjab claimed they had uncovered a major terrorist plot aimed at disrupting the elections. They called a press conference and displayed a vast array of weapons, including RDX explosives, grenades and hand guns, which they alleged were found in the boot of a Sikh nationalist’s car. Three suspected terrorists had been arrested.

One of the three arrested was Mr Singh, who was in India with his wife and baby granddaughter buying supplies for a holiday home he was building in his ancestral village. The weapons, police claimed, were found in his car. The next day Mr Singh and his co-accused, Amolek and Jaswinder Singh, appeared in court charged with terrorist-related crimes. Despite police protestations, they were permitted to speak briefly to the media. All three of them claimed they had been tortured overnight by policemen who wanted them to sign a written confession.

“He was in such a state,” remembers Ms Kaur. “His legs were painful and he could barely walk. He said they kept standing on his back and legs to try and force him into signing a confession.”

Within 24 hours Indian reporters had unearthed discrepancies in the evidence against the three men, and soon the police began changing their story.

Not only did the police repeatedly alter exactly where they had arrested the three men, but during a second press conference held by the authorities the next day, they said they had in fact not found the explosives in Mr Singh’s car but in a haystack on land near his farm in the village of Gakhal.

Doubts were soon cast on those accusations when local reporters went to Mr Singh’s village immediately after the press conference and could not find a single villager that had seen a policeman for more than a week. Protests soon erupted outside the prison nearby demanding the three men’s release.

Further suspicions about the police evidence were then published after a woman claimed two days later that she had seen police digging a hole in the haystack near Mr Singh’s farm, trying to make it look like they had found the weapons cache.

Mr Singh’s daughter Ravi Gakhal, a lawyer based in Birmingham, believes her father’s arrest was politically motivated.

She is concerned by the fact that the evidence against her father is similar to that in the case of another British Sikh activist who spent three years in an Indian jail before being cleared of all charges.

Balbir Singh Bains was arrested in 1999 by Delhi police who said they had found a consignment of RDX explosives. When Mr Bains finally had his day in court, the judge threw out the charges, calling them a “balloon of falsehoods” after it emerged the RDX in question had come from a police warehouse.

A spokesperson from the Foreign Office said that consular officials have visited Mr Singh in prison.

———————————————- Jerome Taylor for The Independent

Advertisements

Is there a right to dope?
Should the possession of cannabis be legalised ?

My classmate Aditya Wadhwa explored these questions in his project paper titled “Collapse of the Criminal Justice System in Trafficking of Cannabis”. I must say that he raised some really interesting arguments. While a part of it talks of the Indian legal system, the rest is a general argument citing cases from different law systems. The project may also be downloaded here.

There is a simple economic argument supporting the legalization of drugs, which goes as thus: if you legalize it, you can tax it. Though, Milton Friedman has come up with a new line of thought in his article- The Drug War is a Socialist Enterprise- which says that the criminalization of drugs only benefits a few people, like, as he says, under socialism where only a few individuals benefit. He says that these individuals are the people which form lobbies; but, in this case these people instead for asking for the de-criminalization, ask for the criminalization (on moral grounds), which though increases the risk, but gives them more monetary benefit. The researcher though not completely agreeing with the argument agrees with the conclusion, which says that drugs should be dealt with like Tobacco and Alcohol.

………………………………………………………………….

 

Further, it is important to look at the Dissenting opinion given by Justice Levinson, who proposed the “harm to other” approach which mandated the application of strict scrutiny to Mallan’s constitutional claim. It explored Mallan’s claim under the so called “harm to others” theory. The essence of the dissenting argument was that the state’s police power is not unlimited. It is subject to judicial review and must be declared null under the Hawaii Constitution if it is exerted in an oppressive manner. The dissent faulted the majority for ignoring the constitutional prerequisite of the “harm to others” analysis. The dissent cited Territory v. Fritz Kraft to support its proposition that the state’s police power to prohibit certain criminal acts is subject to the following constraints:

“(1) It may not proscribe conduct that is merely ‘innocent,’ ‘innocuous,’ or “‘harmless’;

(2) its reach is limited to the proscription of conduct that imperils ‘the public health, safety or welfare’;

and (3) it may not be ‘exerted in an arbitrary … manner.”‘

The dissent argued that Mallan’s charge of marijuana possession did not “harm others,” and accordingly, was not subject to the state’s assertion of police power. The core of the dissent’s argument was that the state can only exercise its police powers when the general welfare is affected directly, or where others are likely to be harmed by the proscribed act. Thus, central to the dissent’s argument is that the possession of marijuana for recreational purposes is harmful neither to the user nor to the public at large.


UN independent expert on extrajudicial killings urges action on reported incidents

28 March 2007
A United Nations independent human rights expert on extrajudicial killings today called for action in response to reported incidents in the United States, Iran, the Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Indonesia.

“In recent years the United States has consistently argued that the UN Human Rights Council, and all other international human rights accountability mechanisms, have no legitimate role to play when individuals are intentionally killed, so long as it is claimed that the actions were part of the ‘war on terror,’” said Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“While this argument is convenient because it enables the US to effectively exempt itself from scrutiny, if accepted it would constitute a huge step backwards in the struggle to promote human rights.”

In a separate statement, he urged Iran to stop executing juvenile offenders, calling the practice “unacceptable.”

“It is time for Iran to demonstrate that its commitment to international law involves concrete action, not just empty words,” said Mr. Alston, calling on the country’s Government to “immediately commute all death sentences imposed for crimes individuals committed before the age of 18.”

In a statement directed at the Russian Federation, he called for an end to extrajudicial killings of journalists. “Murders are always tragic, but when journalists are being murdered to cover up human rights abuses, the stakes for the society are even higher than usual,” he said.

“The Government of Russia must bring to an end what appears to be a consistent pattern of failing to prosecute those responsible for these murders and of failing to take the measures required to prevent furthers assassinations of journalists.”

Egypt must instruct its police to stop using firearms to disperse crowds, he said in another statement. “Even if a country makes some demonstrations illegal, and even if the demonstrators ignore the law, that does not mean that the police are allowed to shoot at the demonstrators.”

In a report including several allegations he has received regarding Egypt, Mr. Alston expressed his appreciation for the detailed responses that the Government had made to his requests for further information regarding these incidents, but noted that his dialogue with the Government had revealed serious legal misunderstandings that required immediate reforms.

Bangladesh must stop the Rapid Action Battalion and other elite security forces “from using murder as a policing technique,” said the expert in a separate statement.

His report covers a series of allegations he has received regarding Bangladesh, “none of which were effectively addressed by the Government.”

He also called on Nigeria to “make good on its commitment to end extrajudicial executions by the police” but added in a separate statement that “unfortunately, it seems like business as usual with the Nigerian police continuing to get away with murder.”

In a letter to Nigeria Mr. Alston called for the Government “to underscore the fact that the imposition of the death penalty for offences such as sodomy is unconstitutional.” But his report indicated that the Government ignored his letter.

Indonesia should investigate all those implicated by the report into the murder of Munir Said Thalib, a leading human rights activist, said the expert said in another statement.

In a letter earlier this year, the Government responded to Mr. Alston’s inquiries in a manner that he characterized as “cooperative but incomplete.”

Also today, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council heard reports from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders.

————————————-

HIGH TIME THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ADDRESSES ISSUES LIKE NANDIGRAM.

An Interesting read:

 

The Fight against Terrorism and the Rules of International Law –
Comment on papers and speeches of John B. Bellinger, Chief Legal Advisor to the
United States State Department

Heidelberg, 15 November 2006
Dr. Silja Vöneky2
During the last months John B. Bellinger, Chief Legal Advisor to the United States State Department, is engaging in dialogue with politicians and legal scholars in European countries as there are – from his point of view – a number of misimpressions that have become prevalent over the last years, particularly in Europe, in regard to the US positions on questions of the legal basis and legal limits of the “war on terror” and the treatment of detained terrorists.

However, in my view, for enhancing the dialogue concerning these matters it is important – as a first step – to make very clear what are the differences in the interpretation of the relevant legal rules, as, for instance the limits of the law of self defence; the applicability of the laws of war; lacunae in the laws of war; the question of “unlawful combatant” versus “offensive civilian”; the question of who is a prisoners of war; the treatment of detainees which are not prisoners of war: the legal limits of the Third Geneva Convention and of common Art. 3 of the Geneva Convention; the applicability of human right treaties; the core principles of humane treatment; the range of procedural rights; the interpretation of the prohibition of torture, etc. The following statement tries to lay down a “European” approach to answer the legal questions concerning the fight against terrorism and makes a proposal how to avoid misperceptions and misunderstandings in the future.

Full paper available here

Had my Law and Poverty presentations today. Went off pretty well. Manage to educate some about state accountability and other issues.

I thought of putting down some of the questions that were posed to me by Kalpana Kannabiran at the presentation;

1) On whom does one pin state accountability; the executive, legislature or the judiciary?

2) Does the non performance of a right call for a change in the right or stricter implementation mechanisms?

3) How does one look at a solution to stop state atrocities?

4) What is a favourable outcome from Nandigram?

5) Is DK Basu as effective as Miranda?

* My presentation was on my project, “Access to justice: arguing for Miranda rights in India”. The Project links are there in the previous posts.