India: A crime against humanity in Gujarat and state government’s complicity
Mr. Timothy R. Gill of the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) made an oral intervention on behalf of the ALRC on ‘A crime against humanity in Gujarat’ at the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights under the Agenda Item 9: Question of violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world. This intervention was made on the 03 April 2003 and the full text of statement can be found below.
On behalf of the Asian Legal Resource Centre, I would like to draw the Commission’s attention to the findings of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002.
The Tribunal was formed in response to the anti-Muslim carnage in the state of Gujarat, India, during February and March of 2002. Hundreds of people were killed, women and children sexually abused in the most horrific ways, and an enormous amount of property destroyed.
The Tribunal submitted its report last November. The Asian Legal Resource Centre is concerned that despite the Tribunal’s work, no substantial change has occurred in Gujarat. For its part, the international community has not yet recognized the nature and depth of the violence there.
What occurred in Gujarat was not mere rioting. It was a crime against humanity meticulously organized by militant nationalist groups operating under the aegis of the state government. In its written statement to the Commission (E/CN.4/2003/NGO/148, attached), the Asian Legal Resource Centre has already outlined the state government’s complicity. Two elements are particularly striking.
First, elected state officials, including cabinet ministers, led the attacks on Muslims. Leaders carried computer printouts of people’s names and addresses, obtained from government records. They coordinated the attacks by mobile phone. Their subordinates carried identical backpacks and weapons. According to the Tribunal, “The planning was so elaborate that a particular group… had been assigned only the task of loading guns.”
Secondly, police condoned the attacks. The Asian Legal Resource Centre has seen this happen elsewhere in Asia during state-directed social crises. Law enforcement agencies inflame the conflict by acts of omission or commission. Their negative involvement has dramatic consequences for the rule of law. When those who should protect citizens and their rights are instead the perpetrators of violations, people suffer a deep sense of insecurity. This is reinforced by the lack of effective redress for human rights abuses, as in Gujarat. The Tribunal has rightly observed, “The sorry state of the rule of law in the country is closely connected to the functioning and accountability of our courts, and the criminal justice system is crying out for radical reform.”
To date, there have been no such reforms. To date, those who orchestrated the massacre in Gujarat remain at large. The state government has been re-elected; the national government has failed to act. A massive violation of human rights has passed virtually unnoticed. “The health of any society”, the Tribunal noted in its report, “Lies not in denials and half-truths when grave injustices have occurred, but in courageously admitting them.” To date, the Government of India has lacked courage. The international community must not. The Commission must bring its will to bear on the Government of India, and see to it that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity are brought to justice. This is imperative not only to ensure the safety of people in Gujarat, but also the very integrity of this Commission.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman