UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review urges India to ratify UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances and repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) while India defers response till September
By Team FI
The draft report of the Universal Periodic Review of India’s human rights record, conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 24 May 2012 and adopted on 30 May 2012, has submitted 169 recommendations to the Government of India (GoI). The review prepared by 80 countries includes recommendations to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances; to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); to adopt the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill; to enact comprehensive reforms to address sexual violence and all acts of violence against women; to improve human rights training of police officers; to strengthen efforts to combat trafficking and address the inequities based on rural-urban divide.
Government of India declined to comment on the recommendations, deferring its response till before the plenary session of the HRC in Geneva in September 2012. According to Miloon Kothari, Convener of Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), “We look forward to a constructive response from the GoI as it formulates responses to the many useful suggestions that are contained in the document adopted by the UN on May 30, 2012. These responses from the GoI should be formulated after thorough consultations with the Parliament, human rights institutions, civil society and independent institutions.”
However, as per the WGHR, India’s initial response during the UPR session saw a “lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and Constitutional provisions by the Government of India” The press release of the organisation regretted that “the answers of the government did not address critical issues related to gaps in implementation of laws and enjoyment of rights, with India’s Attorney General who led the government delegation, stating in his opening address that, “India has the ability to self-correct.”
“By employing a defensive and largely self-righteous position at the HRC, GoI has, at least in its initial response at the HRC, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.” Says Kothari.
During India’s first UPR in 2008, GoI had accepted recommendations to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances (CED) which have however remained unfulfilled. The current UPR had several of the 80 countries which participated, reiterating these recommendations. However WGHR points out that while the GoI spoke about the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB) which is pending before Parliament, it ignored the fact of the Bill’s non-compliance with the CAT’s definition of torture.
WGHR states that not only did the GoI didn’t comment on the ratification of CED but also “dodged the recommendations for repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism.”
Ms. Vrinda Grover, human rights lawyer and member of WGHR, expressed serious concerns at GoI’s misleading response to the HRC, “The refusal and reluctance of GoI to squarely address the issue of impunity under AFSPA, in spite of numerous recommendations by international bodies, government appointed committees and UN Special Rapporteurs is unacceptable in a country that proclaims to be the largest democracy in the world.”
In response to the several recommendations to ratify the Optional Protocol (complaint mechanism) to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), India during the UPR session had stated that its domestic legal remedies were adequate to address gender-based discrimination. WGHR regretted the fact that GoI did not engage substantially with recommendations made on issues relating to women, including maternal mortality, pre-natal sex selection, infanticide, sexual and gender-based violence, political participation of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, early/child marriage, harmful traditional practices, honour crimes, and trafficking.
WGHR was however appreciative of the GoI’s stand on the issue of homosexuality, where the government affirmed its support of the High Court of Delhi judgment decriminalizing homosexuality and stated that it would take a sensitive view of the matter that has been appealed in the Supreme Court.
Featured Photo by Ramlath Kavil