Release all detained without enough legal basis: UN tells India after Stan Swamy’s death

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell said the UN is “deeply saddened and disturbed” by the death of 84-year-old Stan Swamy.
Stan Swamy with a background of Bhima Koregaon case
Stan Swamy with a background of Bhima Koregaon case
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In light of the tragic demise of 84-year-old tribal rights activist and Jesuit priest Stan Swamy while in custody on July 5, the United Nations urged the Indian government to not detain citizens for exercising their fundamental rights. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Liz Throssell, on July 6, said, “In light of the continued, severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more urgent that States, including India, release every person detained without a sufficient legal basis, including those detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views. This would be in line with the Indian judiciary's calls to decongest the prisons.”

“We stress, once again, the High Commissioner's call on the Government of India to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association,” her statement added. 

The UN, in its detailed press statement, noted that Stan Swamy was held in pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest, charged with terrorism-related offences in relation to demonstrations that date back to 2018. He was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in October 2020 by the National Investigative Agency. His bail application was repeatedly rejected even though the National Investigation Agency did not question him. He succumbed on Monday as the Bombay High Court was hearing his bail petition, following a heart attack. He was admitted to a private hospital on May 29 as he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. 

"We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, a human rights defender and Jesuit priest, in Mumbai yesterday, following his arrest in October 2020 under India's Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)," Throssell said.

The statement reiterated that High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the UN's independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the same events with the government of India over the past three years and urged their release from pre-trial detention. “The High Commissioner has also raised concerns over the use of the UAPA in relation to human rights defenders,” the note said.

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