(New Delhi) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should make human rights a central part of his discussions with government officials during his visit to India, Human Rights Watch said today. Ban is scheduled to visit India from April 25 to 27, 2012, and is scheduled to discuss regional and global issues with the country's senior leaders.
“India has a dynamic democracy, but UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should not gloss over the serious domestic violations and routine impunity that affect millions of Indians, and hold back the country’s development,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Ban would do a great disservice to the Indian people if he were to only talk about regional and global issues.”
Human Rights Watch urged Ban to press the Indian government to address serious human rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings, abuses in conflict areas, and widespread torture. The Indian government has failed to hold soldiers and police officers who are responsible for abuses to account. Ban should also raise India's excessive restrictions on civil society and the need to take strong steps to protect the rights of women, Dalits, indigenous people, and other vulnerable groups. Widespread impunity for these abuses, as well as a lack of access to justice or adequate compensation, are commonplace in India, Human Rights Watch said.
Ban should in particular press the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Human Rights Watch said. The law provides effective immunity to soldiers responsible for serious human rights violations and has led to widespread abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, and in the northeastern states where it remains in force. Ban should also call for the repeal of archaic sedition laws that have been used to silence peaceful dissent.
India is serving a two-year term on the UN Security Council. The country has initially used its seat to oppose strong UN pressure to address the situation in Syria, despite overwhelming evidence of massive and systematic abuse by the government against its own population. India recently sided with the majority of Security Council members that favor increased pressure on the Syrian government to stop the abuses. But with its foreign policy still rooted in a culture of non-interference on human rights matters, India should be encouraged to seek ways to incorporate human rights concerns into its response to international issues.
“As India develops a foreign policy to match its emerging global status, Ban should caution Indian leaders against allowing sovereignty concerns to blind them to serious human rights abuses in other countries,” Ganguly said. “With growing power comes growing responsibility, not only to foreign governments, but also to the people they often oppress.”