You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 16, 2008.

Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a local reporter hurled a shoe at President George W Bush when he was giving a press conference during his visit to Iraq. This guy has now got the status of a hero in the Country where still thousands scorn the occupation of their country by the United States of America.

Now, his case has been transferred to the Central Criminal Court set up by the US in 2003. The procedure under Iraqi law is that an investigative judge is going to review the evidence and then decide whether the accused should stand trial. If he finds in the affirmative, then a three judge bench would sit and determine his guilt.  What exactly may he be charged with? Here are some of the options;

– An assasination attempt on President Bush ?

– An ex supporter of Saddam and now having an alliance with the terrorists?

– Insulting a foreign leader. This is what the Iraqi officials have actually recommended.

Meanwhile, after his arrest, the reporter was tortured and is reported to have a broken leg, cracked ribs and some injuries under his eye. Even with the establishment of the rule of law that US authorities are talking about in that country, torture is an open concept and no action seems to be taken on that charge. America has openly declared that it would not interfere with the Iraqi justice system in this matter. Considering that he was tortured and beaten up, they should. At the same time, we are talking of a country that blatantly violates human rights law and tortures people in Abu Gharaib and Guantanamo.

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Balakrishnan and Justice Sadashivam, today heard the petitioners’ (Nandini Sundar and ors, Kartam Joga and ors) response to the NHRC report on Salwa Judum. The counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Ashok Desai, pointed out that the report contained a number of findings which supported the petitioners’ grievances, such as the burning of villages by Salwa Judum, complicity of State Police and administration in arson and looting of property; Government and political sponsorship of Salwa Judum rallies;forcing of villagers into camps; inhibition of freedom of movement, extra judicial killings by SPOs; suspect encounters and non-recording of deaths, recruitment of minors as SPOs, and arming of civilians as a vigilante force.  The NHRC report notes with respect to sangham members who are unarmed villagers,

“these villagers were specifically targeted when Salwa Judum was on the rise. The enquiry team has come across instances where some of these villagers were even killed (no criminal cases were, however, either reported or registered). Though the State has taken action against SPOs in some cases for violations like murder and attempt to murder, but these cases do not pertain to the violence let loose on innocent villagers during operations against Naxalites.”
(5.04).

The Chhattisgarh Government, which has continued to publicly justify Salwa Judum, admitted in its affidavit and annexures to the Supreme Court that villages had been burnt by Salwa Judum and security forces, and there had been serious offences committed by Salwa Judum, SPOs and security forces in which no action had been taken and no FIRs had been registered.

On 17th October, in response to the Supreme Court’s order that the CG government take some immediate steps on the NHRC report, the Home Secretary of Chhattisgarh issued orders to the Collectors of Bijapur and Dantewada that “necessary action be taken for rehabilitation of uninhabited villages; necessary relief money be given in the cases of properties damaged by Salwa Judum activists/security forces, besides naxalite violence, after village wise analysis, security forces be not allowed to stay in school/ashram buildings; facilities of ration distribution, PDS, health, toilet etc. in the relief camps be ensured.” In addition, the DGP has issued orders to all SPs to register FIRs on receipt of information, and to prepare a village wise list of missing persons.

When counsel for the petitioners pointed out that despite admission of violations, till date no compensation had been publicly announced, leave alone carried out, CG counsel made the excuse that they could not do anything because of the election code of conduct (though this did not stop them from distributing free rice and blankets).

Chhattisgarh government has been asked to file an Action Taken Report to the Supreme Court on the implementation of compensation and rehabilitation measures on a village wise plan and register FIRs against all cognizable offences, by January 28. This will involve bringing back refugees from Andhra Pradesh and compensating them.

The Supreme Court has given time for a detailed hearing in the first week of February, to go into all matters of killing, rape etc. The Judges recognized that the cases mentioned in the NHRC report are only a fraction of the total charges, and will go into the prosecution and other issues in greater depth at that time.

More on;

Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh
Email: cpjcindia@gmail. com;
Website:www.cpjc.wordpress. com
Contact for further information: Nandini Sundar 9868076576, MJ Vijayan
9868165471 (Delhi),
Manish Kunjam 09425260360 (Dantewada),
Himanshu Kumar 09425260031 (Dantewada)

Ahmed Harun, Sudan’s Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs has given an interview to the guardian and protested his innocence for the death of more than 250,000 people in Sudan. This comes at a time when the International Criminal Court has charged Harun with the crime of genocide and asked for his arrest.

Mr. Harun’s contention is that the evidence against him has been concocted by the international community and he has vowed not to submit himself to the international criminal court.

Readers may also read this excellent post on the Genocide convention and its relevance in the world today.

Apologies for this delayed post. However, quite fortunately, the last Part of this three-pronged series coincides with two seminal events/publications.

1. CJI K.G. Balakrishnan’s piece on “Terrorism, rule of law and human rights” in The Hindu (Opinion Page).

2. The Union Cabinet’s nod for NSA Amendments and a new Investigation Agency.

KGB’s write-up/analysis of our contemporary security predicaments has been posted in his official capacity as the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, and is remarkable for that very reason. The highest judicial officer in this country has clearly expostulated the need to maintain our constitutional ethos in place. He elucidates upon the role played by due process and rule of law in protecting human rights, even at a time when the nation is blinded by rage against a terror attack that left India reeling.

Adherence to the constitutional principle of ‘substantive due process’ must be an essential part of our collective response to terrorism. Any dilution of the right to a fair trial for all individuals, however heinous their crimes may be, will be a moral loss against those who preach hatred and violence.

On the other hand, the Union Cabinet has given the green signal to proposed amendments in the National Security Act, 1980 and a new Anti-Terror Investigative Agency (Part II of this series had enlisted the major provisions in the prospective legislation). In a chaotic post-Mumbai period when public sentiment and ire has been directed largely against the political class, it is important that the Government does not resort to populist methods to assuage this anger. A new and shiny array of ‘tough’ anti-terror laws might seem to be the perfect panacea to our security problems, but in reality they are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions.

Tougher anti-terror laws have had a chequered history in this nation’s democratic regime. Yet, they continue to be hot favourites among people and institutions who want a change in the Government’s attitude towards terror. Indeed, I remember a discussion in one of our Criminal Law classes at Nalsar where the topic in question was the efficacy of anti-terror laws like POTA, ULFA etc. The debate invariably spun around to the “Human Rights v. National Security” perspective, with a visibly emotional law professor eventually closing the arguments thus:

Those who might find favour with the concept of due process, and justiciable rights for the terror -accused will never step down from their ideal ivory towers till they lose a little finger in a blast or attack.

Surely, she spoke for a sizeable portion of the populace, who truly believe that India’s anti-terror must be incisive and deterrent to all who wreak havoc in its villages and cities. Take Qasab’s case for instance; the Mumbai Bar Association has forbidden its members to take up his defence. Does his obvious involvement in the terrorist attacks mitigate a constitutionally guaranteed right of legal aid? Doesn’t the lawyering community rush to defend the super-rich and mighty from all sorts of civil,criminal and commercial indictment, even when evidence is blatantly against them? Why treat Qasab exceptionally then? Is it because terrorism is an evil more equal than the other evils which plague civil society? Certainly, we have to draw the line, before the rule of law goes flying out of this polity’s windows.

The POTA has an abysmal conviction rate of 2%, and has hardly produced the desired results. The new face of terrorism does not operate like other societal crimes, and ‘deterrence’ is hardly any reason to come up with multi-fanged laws. That the terrorists in the Taj and Trident-Oberoi had no intentions of negotiating with the Government, and came readily prepared to die, must teach us an invaluable lesson. If the purpose of all anti-terror laws is to preserve public order, then we must embrace a systematic procedure to collect evidence, grant fair trials and opportunities. Without these safeguards, the law will never strike at the root of terrorism, for all the wrong people would be behind bars then.

Arundhati Roy wrote a blistering piece in Outlook India last week, and she says;

It was after the 2001 Parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation….The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment, the court acknowledged that there was no proof that Mohammad Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, “The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender” Even today we don’t really know who the terrorists that attacked Indian Parliament were and who they worked for.

The rallying calls against anti-terror laws must not be mistaken to be a blind push for seemingly facile human rights, but a warning against the nightmarish future of citizens losing faith in its own legal regime.