The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to inform you the need for the Indian Government to provide witness protection in all trials related to the Gujarat pogrom.
Over 2,000 Indian citizens were killed in Gujarat in the weeks and months following 28 February 2002. It is not known how many women and girls were raped before being killed. To determine or even estimate the economic losses suffered during that time will be a most difficult endeavor: although the Gujarat Government’s solution has been to dole out an absurdly small pittance in the name of compensation. (For further details on the mass violence of Gujarat, please see our previous forward appeal in 2002: FA-3-2002and press release in 2003: ALRC-PL-04-2003).
After so many deaths, so many rapes, so much destruction of property, so much looting, so much human suffering of all varieties, there should have been countless more trials than the very few which are in progress or are awaiting. No trial can be conducted without witnesses, and witnesses cannot testify freely in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, when they live in terror of those institutions and individuals that should protect them and ensure that they get justice.
At this point in time, there appears a declining chance that Gujarat’s Muslims will get justice, or that they will be able to speak freely about what happened during the post-Godhra violence, while the Gujarat Government and the Gujarat Police can manipulate and terrorise them.
A recent case provides proof of this situation. The Best Bakery of Hanuman Tekri, Vododara, was attacked by a mob of several hundred people late in the evening on 1 March 2002. By morning, the bakery had been burnt down and over a dozen people had been killed. Zahira Habibullah Sheikh, many members of whose family were among the dead or injured, described in detail what had happened. She said, among other things, that the Police Control Room and the Panigate Police Station had been asked for help, and that a police vehicle had stopped briefly by the bakery but had driven on. Despite this testimony, Zhira has since stated they she knew nothing of the attack on the bakery and that the accused had actually been their saviours. As a consequence, all 21 accused were acquitted. In an even more remarkable claim, Zahira also accused NGO personnel of taking her to Mumbai “at knife point” and holding her captive there. She has, however, since withdrawn this claim.
Where was Zahira when she decided to tell the trial court that she had lied earlier and no attack had taken place? Where was Zahira when she decided to ask to be protected from NGO personnel? On both occasions, she was in Vododara; and on the second, it was only the Gujarat Police that could be asked to protect her. Who controlled the Gujarat Police, the force whose duty it was to have prevented the crimes of which the Supreme Court had spoken? The Gujarat Government, of course, which so many have held responsible for having planned and instigated those very crimes.
In light of this, we ask you to intervene in this matter, and request you to appeal to the President of Republic of India, to the Prime Minister, to the Minister for Home, and to the National Human Rights Commission to make arrangements for the protection of all witnesses in all trials related to the Gujarat pogrom. We further request that you ask these authorities to extend this protection to the families of the witnesses.
It goes without saying that the Gujarat Government and the Gujarat Police should not be involved in the planning or execution of this program of protection, and that witnesses should face no threat of pressure from NGOs either.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission
Please send a letter, fax or an email to the following authorities and request that protection be provided to all witnesses and their families.
To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER
RE: Witness protection required for Gujarat victims and witnesses
I write to you to express my concern regarding the absence of witness protection for the victims, witnesses and their families, involved in the Gujarat violence. No trial can be conducted without witnesses, and witnesses cannot testify freely in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, when they live in terror of those very institutions and individuals who should protect them and ensure that they get justice.
The case of the Best Bakery of Hanuman Tekri, Vododara, which I have come to know, is an example of such fear and the intimidation witnesses are exposed to.
I ask you, therefore, to make arrangements for the protection of all witnesses in all trials related to the Gujarat violence. I further request that you extend this protection to the families of the witnesses.
SEND A LETTER TO:
1. Shri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Azad
President of India
New Delhi -110001
Tel: +91 11 2301-4930; ext 4211/4400/4260 (for secretary) / +91 11 2301-3488; ext 4218 (for personal secretary)
Fax: + 91 11 23017290 / 23017824
2. Mr. Manmohan
Prime Minister of India
Race Course Road
New Delhi110 001
Tel: +91 11 2301-8668/2312/8939 (Office)/ +91 11 2301-8939 (for personal secretary)
Fax: +91 11 2301-6857/9545
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi
Government of Gujarat
Chief Minister’s Office
Block No 1, 5th Floor, New Sachivalaya,
Gandhinagar 382 010
Tel: 23232611 to 18 (O)
4. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhaven, Sansad Marg
New Delhi 110 001
Tel: + 91 11 23346244
Fax: + 91 11 23366537
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Att: Sonia Cronin
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9160
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
6. Mr. Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions
Att: Lydie Ventre
c/o OHCHR-UNOG, 1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (general)
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)