Dec 16, 2019
New Delhi, India
The tragic set of events in South Delhi yesterday evening, marked by severe violence, demands strict action against the police personnel who were complicit in perpetrating the violence against the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.
This will necessitate exhaustive investigation to identify the role of Delhi Police personnel, and other security forces involved, both in ordering and unleashing excessive force. In the aftermath of the violence on campus and adjoining areas, it is necessary to look into the legality of detention of students. In addition, there should be an inquiry into anyone who has allegedly tried to instigate violence.
Calling on protesters on the issue of the Citizenship Amendment Act to scrupulously maintain peace, Wajahat Habibullah and Sanjoy Hazarika, representing the India Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) urge an immediate investigation of all the potential violations that have been alleged to transpired, from the violence, to excessive force, to the manner in which students were detained by police. Visuals have emerged of terrified students being dragged away and beaten by uniformed police swinging staves while others fled their classrooms as tear gas smoke billowed in.
Injured students were detained for hours during the night at several police stations in South East Delhi with little access to either lawyers or friends, pointing to serious procedural violations. There have been media reports that women were subjected to sexual violence. There are reports of a police crackdown on students of Aligarh Muslim University as well. CHRI demands special attention to and intense scrutiny of these serious allegations.
CHRI urges an investigation by a Commission of Inquiry headed by a retired High Court or Supreme Court judge. There could also be a high-level NHRC team including the Law Registrar, a Special Rapporteur of the Commission and an experienced civil society activist from the NHRC Core Group.
"The investigation must be conducted without delay. Attention needs to be paid to the CCTV footage, to whether police officials had given adequate warning and in time to the public to disperse, who authorized the entry into the campus," Habibullah and Hazarika said.
It is to be noted that the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia has said that the police had no prior permission to enter the campus. It is vital to collect and review all the CCTV footage both in and around the affected areas beginning from 13th December, particularly to ascertain who were involved in using force, whether in uniform or not; the kind of force used and injuries caused; and whether police officials followed the mandated procedures of giving clear warning for the crowd to disperse.
The investigation needs also to look at the manner in which police detained students in the intervening hours. This follows the chain of custody from when they were taken from the campus to the police stations they were kept, with a special focus on women. Any violation of the legal rights of detained persons, such as the right to access a lawyer and to seek medical examination, must be addressed swiftly.
These steps are necessary to establish accountability.
Both Habibullah and Hazarika urged the National Human Rights Commission to "act decisively and fearlessly" and take suo moto cognizance of the incident.
"To regain its position as a leader to protect rights, the NHRC must move quickly and independently in such situations," they said in a joint statement.
Habibullah, Chairperson of CHRI's India EC, a leader of the transparency movement was the country's first Chief Information Commissioner and former chair of the Minorities Commission. Hazarika, a specialist on the North East, set up the first centre for North East studies in Jamia Millia Islamia before joining CHRI as its international director.
Issued on behalf of the Indian Executive Committee of CHRI, which includes Wajahat Habibullah, Sanjoy Hazarika, Justice Madan Lokur, Justice AP Shah, B.K. Chandrashekhar, Maja Daruwala, Jayanto Choudhury, Kamal Kumar, Jacob Punnoose, Nitin Desai, Vineeta Rai, and Poonam Muttreja
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