Rohatgi to defend India’s human rights record in Geneva
On Thursday, an Indian delegation led by the Attorney General will defend India’s Human Rights record in Geneva. Listed here are some uncomfortable questions the delegation will face
Hours after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court that Indians did not have any ‘absolute right’ over their own bodies, the Indian delegation led by him left for Geneva on Tuesday night to defend India at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council.
India’s Human Rights record had earlier been examined by the UN Council in April 2008 and May 2012. The record is normally examined once in five years. The Indian delegation will have four hours on Thursday to answer questions at a session which will be webcast live.
While the Attorney General is on record saying that he would be highlighting India’s ‘impartial justice system’ and the ‘exemplary manner’ in which the judiciary handled the cases of Ajmal Kasab and Yaqub Memon for their roles in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai in 2008 and the Bombay blasts in 1992-93, he is expected to face tough questions from member states on why India is yet to ratify the convention on torture despite agreeing to it way back in the nineties.
The Indian delegation will also be facing questions on minority rights, hate speech and cow vigilantism. The council will finalise its recommendations on India in its meeting on May 9.
Some of the questions put to the Indian delegation in advance by member states are as follows :
- The Government of India signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997 and committed to ratify this Convention at its previous UPR. What is the status?
- Does the Government of India intend to respond positively to the outstanding requests of Special Rapporteurs to visit the country?
- Is the Government of India taking measures to ensure that all state-level police personnel establish standard operating protocols, in line with international standards, for registering and investigating cases of violence against women, and that officials who fail to properly register crimes involving violence against women are held accountable?
- How are religious minorities’ rights to freedom of religion and belief protected under the various anti-conversion laws that are practice in seven states? To what degree have their rights’ situation improved since the last UPR?
- Concern is regularly voiced on human rights violations committed in areas under martial law. Will India consider repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts?
- The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders has highlighted the need for specific attention to defenders working on minority rights in India, including Dalits and Adivasis, Right to Information-activists and journalists, women defenders and defenders working on rights of women and children. She recommended the establishment of a comprehensive protection programme for human rights defenders and witnesses at central and state level. What steps have the government of India taken to follow up on the report of the Special Rapporteur?
- We note that India is carrying a substantial backlog on mandatory reporting to the human rights treaty bodies. How will India bring its obligations to the UN Treaty Bodies up to date?
- Concern has been raised about the status of religious minorities and prevalence of communal violence incidents in India. What can the government do to safeguard religious freedom and to protect against discrimination and violence against religious minorities?
- Does the Indian government intend to repeal section 377 of the Penal Code in the wake of the 2014 landmark judgment of the Supreme Court affirming the equal rights of transgender persons?
- What effective measures have been proven effective in fighting against human trafficking in India?
- Same-sex sexual relations are prohibited by the Indian Penal Code. Civil society organisations have reported discrimination of LGBT persons. What measures is the Government of India taking to ensure full equality before the law of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity?
- Safeguarding a woman’s right to exercise informed consent in making reproductive health decisions is fundamental to protecting her sexual and reproductive health and rights. Women have the right to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraceptive methods of their choice. Echoing the requests made by several UN special procedures in their 2015 communication to India, what steps is the Government of India taking to prevent coercive, unsafe, and abusive sterilisation and create greater accountability for these practices, including to ensure free and full consent prior to conducting the procedure and compliance with international and national standards?
- How does the Government of India ensure that anyone who faces the death penalty has access to a legal counsel of the defendant's choice during the entire trial?
- The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. What steps are being taken by the Government of India to hold accountable public and police officials found complicit in shielding criminals involved in intimidating and unleashing violence against minorities and those who advocate religious hatred?
- Indian Courts recognise the right to water and to sanitation as legally enforceable human rights. What steps are being taken by the Government of India to implement them at the national level?
- What steps is the Government of India taking to improve prison conditions in order to ensure the rights and dignity of all those deprived of their liberty?
- What other steps could the government of India take to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to minority groups, as enshrined in India’s constitution?
- What steps is the government of India taking to ensure swift adoption of the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill?