Killing India'a moral heart: Stan Swamy is deadPublished by MAC on 2021-07-18
Source: Ohchr.org, BBC
The 84-year-old, who suffered Parkinson’s disease, was jailed last October.
Father Stan Swamy, the extremely vital and fierce fighter for Adivasi and Human Rights in India, has died, following his release from prison to hospital, after a completely false accusation of his conspiring in anti-Indian activities early this year.
Suffering from multiple afflictions, including Parkinson's, his arrest and detention in horrendous conditions, was condemned by his many supporters and others across the world - including members of MAC.
Over many years, Stan sustained his vigorous commitment to broaden the growing battle against mining in his own state, as well as imparting news of this to the outside world.
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GENEVA (15 July 2021) - The death in custody of Catholic priest Stan Swamy, a renowned human rights and social justice advocate for over four decades, will forever remain a stain on India’s human rights record, a UN human rights expert said today.
The 84-year-old, who suffered Parkinson’s disease, was jailed last October on fabricated terrorism charges, and had been subjected to harassment and repeated interrogations, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said.
I was devastated to hear that Father Stan, a Jesuit priest who had dedicated much of his life to defending the rights of indigenous peoples and the Adivasi minority, died in custody on July 5, despite many requests for his release as his health deteriorated in prison,” she said.
In early November 2020 UN experts joined me in raising his case with the Indian authorities, reminding them of their international human rights obligations. I now ask again why he wasn’t released, and why he had to die in custody?”
His Parkinson’s condition meant he suffered from severe tremors in both hands, and had great difficulty with daily activity such as eating, drinking and washing. He also had severe hearing difficulties, requiring hearing aids in both ears. In November last year, his requests for a drinking straw and warm winter clothes were denied. He contracted COVID-19 in prison.
“There is no excuse, ever, for a human rights defender to be smeared as a terrorist, and no reason they should ever die the way Father Swarmy died, accused and detained, and denied his rights.”
Father Swamy was from Jamshedpur Province, Jharkhand State. He was the founder of Bagaicha, a social research and training centre in Ranchi, Jharkhand. He had been working for decades to protect the rights of Adivasi minority indigenous peoples and the Dalit minority, in particular violations involving forced displacement and illegal land acquisitions.
We know that defenders working on environmental, land or indigenous people’s rights are among the most vulnerable to being targeted,” said Lawlor.
The UN expert said Father Swamy’s case should remind all states that human rights defenders and all those detained without sufficient legal basis, should be released.
Lawlor's call has been endorsed by: Mr. Fernand de Varennes,Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health
7 July, 2021
Many also expressed anger at the way he was jailed during Covid-19 and repeatedly denied bail.
The government said Swamy's arrest followed "due process under law".
The Jesuit priest, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, was the oldest to be accused of terrorism in India.
Swamy was moved to a private hospital in May after he contracted Covid in jail. He died of cardiac arrest in the western city of Mumbai on Monday.
Historian Ramachandra Guha called his death "a case of judicial murder".
Leader of the main opposition Congress party Rahul Gandhi tweeted that "he deserved justice and humaneness":
United Nations Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor said she was devastated to hear about Swamy's death and that "jailing HRDs [Human rights defenders] is inexcusable":
India's federal government responded to the criticism, saying Swamy's bail had been denied because of the "specific nature of charges against him".
"Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights. All such actions are strictly in accordance with the law," it said in a statement on Tuesday.
Father Stan Swamy was among 16 renowned activists, academics and lawyers who were charged under a draconian anti-terror law in what came to be known as the Bhima Koregaon case.
Arrested in October 2020, he spent eight months in a Mumbai prison, awaiting trial. During this time, his health deteriorated rapidly to the point where he could not eat or bathe by himself.
Prison authorities were criticised for denying him access to basic amenities such as a straw and sipper - a plastic drinking beaker with a spout or straw - which he needed to drink water because of hand tremors caused by Parkinson's.
In his last bail hearing in May, Swamy had predicted his death. "I would rather suffer, possibly die here very shortly if this were to go on," he told the judges.
On Tuesday, the Indian Express newspaper said Swamy's death had "left the highest institutions of India's justice system diminished".
"In the nearly nine months of his incarceration, till his death, the ailing activist came up - again and again - against the heavy hand of the state, an unresponsive judiciary and a broken prison system," the newspaper said in an editorial.
Chief Minister Hemant Soren of the eastern state of Jharkhand - where Swamy lived and worked - said the federal government "should be answerable for absolute apathy and non provision of timely medical services, leading to his death".
The accusations against Swamy were in connection with caste violence at a rally in Bhima Koregaon village in Maharashtra in 2018.
India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), which investigates terror crimes, accused Swamy and others of having links with Maoist rebels.
Swamy had denied the charged, saying he was being targeted for his work related to the caste and land struggles of tribespeople in Jharkhand.
Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer, said Swamy's death was "designed to happen".
Jean Dreze, a Belgian-born Indian development economist who's known Father Swamy for over a decade, said: "Even if you're a Maoist, which I don't believe for a second, even then you could not excuse what has happened today".