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India must heed NHRC’s recommendation on Sharmila: Amnesty International, India

IMPHAL, November 1: “India must heed NHRC’s recommendations on Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila and release her immediately”, said a press release of the Amnesty International, India.

“The National Human Rights Commission’s call to remove restrictions imposed on Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila is an encouraging development which must spur authorities to end her detention, Amnesty International India said today, as it launched a public campaign seeking Irom Sharmila’s release”, it said.

As Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike enters its 14th year on November 2, 2013, Amnesty International India is launching a public campaign seeking the support of people for her release.

“As the NHRC has now acknowledged, Irom Sharmila is a Prisoner of Conscience who is being detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs,” said Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director of Amnesty International India. “Her detention is a reminder of India’s intolerance to dissent, and an attempt to stifle her protest”, the statement continued.

“Irom Sharmila has been on a prolonged hunger strike for the last 13 years, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).”

“Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is a protest against human rights violations, and is different from self-starvation as a way to commit suicide,” said Shashikumar Velath, according to the statement.

In February 2012, the Supreme Court of India observed in its ruling in the Ram Lila Maidan Incident versus Home Secretary, Union of India and Others case that a hunger strike is “a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our constitutional jurisprudence.”

“Irom Sharmila is being detained in the security ward of a hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, where she is force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose. Visitors, including her family and friends have to go through a lengthy process of obtaining permission from the Manipur government”, the statement expressed.

“On October 30, 2013, the NHRC took suo-motu cognisance of the restrictions imposed on access to Irom Sharmila, noting that even UN Special Rapporteurs and its own Special Rapporteur had been denied access to her in the past.” “Further, it said that only the Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister of Manipur could permit visitors to meet Irom Sharmila.”

The Amnesty NHRC directed the Government of Manipur to immediately remove these restrictions, calling it a “breach of India's obligations under international human rights standards and principles, and a grave violation of human rights”.

The NHRC observed that the Manipur government was “trying to break [Irom Sharmila’s] spirit through this enforced isolation, for which there is no judicial mandate”. It asked the government to let Sharmila receive visitors like any person in judicial custody, it said.

NHRC members had visited Irom Sharmila on October 23, 2013 for the first time since she began her hunger strike 13 years ago, it continued.

“We welcome the NHRC’s observation, but authorities must go further. They must recognize Sharmila’s right to express her beliefs in a peaceful manner, drop all charges against her and release her unconditionally,” said Shashikumar Velath.  

Speaking to Amnesty International India in September 2013, Irom Sharmila, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, said, “My struggle is my message. I love my life very much and want to have the freedom to meet people and struggle for issues close to my heart.”

Posted by Imphal Dispatch on 03:58. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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