Human rights space in India has contracted: UN expert

The space for civil society movement in India has "contracted", leaving the country’s human rights defenders more vulnerable, a top UN expert has warned.

Updated: Jan 25, 2011, 16:09 PM IST

New York: The space for civil society movement in India has "contracted", leaving the country’s human rights defenders more vulnerable, a top UN expert has warned.

"Space for civil society contracted," said Margaret Sekaggy, a UN independent expert on human rights
after completing her first fact-finding mission to the India.

"I am deeply concerned about the branding and
stigmatization of human rights defenders, labelled as
`Naxalites (Maoists)`, `terrorists`, `militants`,
‘insurgents’, or ‘anti-nationalists’," she said recently.

Noting that existing national and state human rights
commissions needed to be more pro-active in protecting human
rights activists and journalists, Sekaggy recommended that the
Indian government strengthen the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC).

Sekaggya, who will submit her findings to United
Nations Human Rights Council in 2012, suggested that India
enact a law for the protection of human rights groups.

Sekaggy said that the human rights activists and
journalists she spoke during her visit expressed
"disappointment and mistrust" with the NHRC and the state
commissions as well.

She also highlighted "the arbitrary application of
security laws", most notably "the Public Safety Act and the
Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Public
Safety Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act".

Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda who appointed as a UN
special rapporteur in 2008, also expressed concern about the
human rights defenders working with marginalized people, i.e.
Dalits, Adavasis (tribals), religious minorities and sexual
minorities.

PTI