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Dhabhol Power Plant - India
"Many energy companies have invested in closed or repressive countries -- arguing that their investment would help develop the local economy and thereby improve the human rights situation. But in this case, Enron has invested in a democratic country -- and human rights abuses there have increased. Enron hasn't made things better for human rights; it has made things worse." Legal Restrictions Used to Suppress Opposition to the Dabhol Power Project
Table of Contents

Key Individuals Named in this Report

I. Summary and Recommendations

II. Background: New Delhi and Bombay

III. Background to the Protests: Ratnagiri District

IV. Legal Restrictions Used to Suppress Opposition to the Dabhol Power Project

V. Ratnagiri: Violations of Human Rights 1997

VI. The Applicable Laws

VII. Complicity: The Dabhol Power Corporation

VIII. Responsibility: Financing Institutions and the Government of the United States

IX. Conclusion

Appendix A: Correspondence Between Human Rights Watch and the Export-Import Bank of the United States

Appendix B: Report of the Cabinet Sub-Committee to Review the Dabhol Power Project

Appendix C: Selected Recommendations and Conclusions from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy, May 29, 1995

Appendix D: Correspondence Between the Government of India and the World Bank

IV. Legal Restrictions Used to Suppress Opposition to the Dabhol Power Project

The state government has invoked several laws to restrict peaceful expression and assembly in Ratnagiri and surrounding districts. These include provisions under the Bombay Police Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Penal Code. The Bombay Police Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure have been regularly used to criminalize group demonstrations against the Dabhol Power project and to prevent individuals whom the police perceive as leaders of protests from entering the districts where opposition is active. The Indian Penal Code has been used to charge individuals known as leaders of anti-DPC protests with criminal offences as serious as attempted murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, even when there is little or no evidence that these individuals were involved in a crime. In several cases, these arrests have been coupled with the use of excessive force by police in the form of beatings with lathis (police batons or canes), fists, and sticks.

The application of these laws against peaceful opponents of the Dabhol Power project represents a systematic effort on the part of the Maharashtra government to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in violation of international standards enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).101 The methods used to implement the laws, in turn, violate international norms governing the conduct of law enforcement officers, most notably prohibitions against torture enshrined under the ICCPR and the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

101 India ratified the ICCPR on April 10, 1979. The relevant articles of the ICCPR enumerating these protections are: Article 19—1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. Article 21—The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.