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UN Working Group assails arbitrary detention of activist

Expressing its concern over the arrest and detention of May 17 Movement coordinator Thirumurugan Gandhi and 3 others by the state government last year, the UN Working Group (UNWG) on Arbitrary Detention has held that there was no ‘legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty’ of the quartet.


Significantly, India did not respond to the communications from the UNWG, which rendered its opinion in November 2017 and the report of the same was recently made public. 

“The Working Group expresses its concern at the chilling effect that the widespread use of preventive detention against human rights defenders is bound to have on their exercise of the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association and thus the detention violates articles 19 and 20 of UDHR and articles 19, 21 and 22 of ICCPR”, it said. 

It also noted that the Tamil Nadu Goondas Act gave the police inspector and other State officials the power to detain any person indefinitely without trial in the name of crime prevention. The report further stated that the quartet who won a reprieve after the Madras High Court’s intervention, had already been deprived of their liberty for four months due to the preventive detention order and had endured inhuman treatment, such as beatings, during police custody. It also reminded India of its obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture. 

The UN Working Group also states that Gandhi’s detention ‘prejudiced his right to the presumption of innocence and negated his right to a fair trial’. The case has been referred to three Special Rapporteurs who has ambit over the said deviations. 

“We urge the state Government to consider the opinions of the UNWG to seriously consider the opinion and refrain from such arbitrary detention of human rights defenders”, said Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch. His organisation had lodged a complaint to the UNWG against the arrest of Gandhi, Arunkumar, Tyson and Ilamaran.

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