The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is extremely concerned for the safety of human rights defender and freelance journalist Jiten Yumnam, who it has learned, has been arrested and detained in Manipur. Jiten was reportedly taken into custody by officers from the Manipur State Police Special Commando Unit stationed at Imphal West Police Station on 14 September, while on his way to Thailand. He was scheduled to participate in an international meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The AHRC is concerned that Jiten will face fabricated charges and severe abuse in custody, and calls for his swift and safe release.
Jiten Yumnam is a human rights defender and freelance journalist and has been actively involved in campaigns involving environmental issues, and the toll taken by militarisation in Manipur.
Jiten was active in an international campaign against police officers who murdered a young man and a pregnant woman in the Manipur capital this July (please see our Urgent Appeal: UAC-098-2009). Bystander photographs proved the involvement of the Manipur State Police Commando Unit and contradicted their official report of the deaths, causing mass civil protests. We have learned that the UN Rapporteur on Torture has also written to the Government of India requesting a report on the incident, though no one has yet been arrested or any action taken against the perpetrators.
It appears that the state administration has instead started to target human rights defenders and political activists involved in the campaign. The state police have arrested several protesters so far and fabricated cases against them using the National Security Act, 1980. The Act is widely misused by the government to lengthily detain human rights defenders and political activists, and we are concerned that it will soon be used against Jiten.
According to the information received by the AHRC, neither the victim nor his family have been told of the charges against him. Unverified reports have suggested that he and seven other persons arrested on the same day will be charged with offenses punishable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, the Official Secrets Act, 1923 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is also not clear as to whether Jiten has been produced before a local magistrate (mandatory under Indian law). Previous experience in Manipur gives the AHRC strong concerns that Jiten’s life could be at risk in police custody.
The AHRC and other human rights organisations working against militarisation and terrorism in Manipur has documented numerous cases in which detainees are shot dead by police or soldiers in fake encounters (or ‘escapes’) after arrest. Similar tactics are also used by underground terrorist groups operating in the state. The AHRC is monitoring the situation and will update you regarding any further information regarding this case.
Jiten is one of the founding members of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network(APIYN) , which issued a statement about his arrest and launched an online signature campaign seeking his immediate release (view and sign here). Jiten is also the Joint-Secretary of the group, Citizens’ Concerns on Dam and Development, and has published several articles, including Militarisation and human rights violations in Manipur, which he co-authored for the AHRC publication, Article 2.
Please write to the authorities below seeking intervention in Jiten’s arrest and calling for his safety and humane treatment while in custody.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Working Group on arbitrary detention calling for an intervention in this case.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
INDIA: Please ensure the safety of detained human rights activist Mr. Jiten Yumnam
Name of the victim: Mr. Jiten Yumnam, human rights activist; Joint-Secretary of Citzens’ Concerns on Dam and Development, Imphal, Manipur.
Name of the alleged perpetrators: Police officers attached to the Manipur State Special Commando Unit, Imphal West Police Station, Manipur
Date of incident: 14 September 2009
I am writing to voice my concern regarding the arrest and detention of Mr. Jiten Yumnam, a human rights activist and freelance journalist working in Manipur. I am informed that Jiten was arrested from Imphal airport while he was waiting to travel to Bangkok to participate in an international meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I am also aware that the arrest was made by the police officers attached to Manipur State Special Commando Unit, Imphal West Police Station.
I am concerned to find out that the exact charges against Jiten have not been made available to either Jiten or his family, and am aware that seven other persons were arrested on the same day on similar charges.
It appears extremely likely that Jiten has been arrested in an attempt to thwart state-wide protests organised against the extra judicial execution of two civilians on 23 July, in which he was actively involved. I am concerned to know that despite national and international interventions in that case, no one has been arrested or and no action have been taken against the police officers shown to be involved by photographs which are widely available.
Furthermore I am told that Jiten’s life could in danger in police custody. There have been many occasion in the recent past in which detainees have been killed in fake encounters by state police and members of the military units operating in Manipur.
I urge you to take necessary actions to ensure that:
1. All possible steps are taken to ensure the safety of Jiten while he remains in custody;
2. Jiten is produced before a local magistrate without any further delay and his statement recorded in the presence of a lawyer of his choice;
3. Jiten as well as his family is informed about the charges registered against him;
3. An independent inquiry is conducted into the case and the investigation is monitored by an independent body other than the state police, for instance the Central Bureau of Investigation;
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Okram Ibobi
Chief Minister & Home Minister of Manipur,
Chief Minister’s secretariat Babupara,
Imphal 795001 Manipur
Fax: + 91 385 2221817
2. Honourable Pratibha Patil Devi,
President, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhawan,
New Delhi, 110004
Fax: +91 11 23017290
E-mail: Chief Minister or pressecy@Sansad. nic.in
3. Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001 INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23340016
E-mail: mailto: email@example.com
4. Mr. Chidambaram
Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs
Griha Mantralaya Room
No. 104, North Block Central Secretariat, New Delhi 110001
Fax: +91 11 2301 5750, 2309 3750, 2309 2763
Manipur State Human Rights
Commission Room No. VIP-II, State Guest House
Sanjenthong, Imphal-795001 Manipur
Telefax: +91 385 2410472
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)