The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) demands the immediate release from police detention of a group of human rights defenders in Tamil Nadu, India, who have been detained without charge since this morning.
The group, headed by Mr. Henri Tiphagne, director of Peoples Watch–Tamil Nadu, was detained while engaged in a routine training programme on torture at about 10am local time this morning, 11 October 2004, in the Cuddalore district. Altogether 15 persons have been detained, under orders of the district Superintendent of Police, Mr Prem Kumar. This officer is reported to be a gross human rights offender who has earlier been found guilty of crimes and has allegations pending against him.
According to Peoples Watch, when the training was about to start at 9:30am, a group of policemen headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police Mr. Payas Ferozkhan Abdullah forcefully entered the training hall and tried to prevent the programme from going ahead. When the group asked the police for the reason they entered the venue, the police said that a press briefing should not be held. Mr. Tiphagne then explained that it was just a training program and that a press meeting would be organized only in the afternoon. However, the police continued to interrupt the meeting, and when Mr. Tiphagne and his team voiced slogans condemning their unlawful actions, the police warned that they would be arrested. When Mr. Tiphagne demanded a warrant, the group was taken into custody.
The AHRC has since learned that the detained persons have to this time not been charged with anything, nor have they been presented with a First Information Report recording their detention, as required by law. As such, their detention is illegal.
The AHRC calls upon the police authorities to release Mr. Tiphagne and his colleagues without delay. Their detention is an outrageous and uncalled for attack on a group of human rights defenders and as such a threat against all persons engaged in human rights work in India. The superior officers to those involved in the case should intervene without delay to ensure the safety and release of the detained persons, and take effective and immediate action against those responsible for this reprehensible step. The National Human Rights Commission of India and its state counterpart must also intervene urgently to these ends. For its part, the AHRC will be taking this case to the international community in the strongest possible terms.