The detention of individuals under the NSA are in contravention of the right to due process and a fair trial, says Elina Steinerte Vice-Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in  a letter to the Indian government, urging a halt to the detention of Manipur journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem.

Wangkhem has been detained under the National Security Act for a period of one year, after he posted a video on Facebook expressing his extreme annoyance and dissent with the decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government in Manipur to celebrate the Rani of Jhansi which was not relevant to the peoples of Manipur. The detention has been widely criticised in Manipur and elsewhere.

Kishorchandra Wangkhem (Facebook photo)

On Jan 3, 2019, the Mandates of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression addressed a communication to the Indian government about the detention and stated, in no uncertain terms:

We express serious concern at the arrest and detention of Mr. Wangkhem. We are concerned at the criminalization of the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression through the use of the National Security Act, which is a broad and unspecific state security legislation, may have a chilling effect on public debate in India, including on the work of journalists.

We are concerned that such legislation may be used particularly to target critical and dissenting voices in India.The facts alleged, if proved correct, would be in contravention, among other norms, with articles 9, 14, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), acceded by India on the 10 April 1979. They guarantee the right not to be deprived arbitrarily of ones liberty and to fair proceedings before anindependent and impartial tribunal, the right to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Read and download the entire letter here: UN FoE Kishorechandra Wangkhem copy

The two authorities have also asked for additional information ‘about the factual and legal basis for the arrests and the detention of Mr. Wangkhem under the NSA for the videos he posted on Facebook’ and n explanation as to how this is compatible with articles9 and 19 of the ICCPR.

In addition, they have sought to know about the assessment made by the Advisory Board under the NSA to confirm Wangkhem’s detention as well as the measures to be taken to ensure that the NSA is brought into compliance with international human rights standards.

The Indian government was expected to respond within 60 days, but as this sheet shows, there is no record of any reply being sent to this communication.

Did some chowkidar say the Indian government cares about freedom of expression?



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