India: Ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand. Ms. Setalvad is the founder of Sabrang Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote conflict resolution and support peace building, as well as of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). Within the framework of CJP, Ms. Setalvad has notably been at the forefront of protests and legal interventions on behalf of victims and their families regarding crimes committed against Muslims during the Gujarat riots of 2002, and has been sharply critical of the then Gujarat State government led by Mr. Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister of India.
According to the information received, on February 3, 2017, Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand appeared before the Mumbai Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Magistrate Court, related to charges they are facing for alleged violations of Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy) and the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA). The CBI decided to grant them bailon the surety of Rs 20,000 (about 280 EUR), but they cannot leave the country without court’s permission. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for May 12, 2017.
Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand had been summoned by the court after the CBI filed a charge sheet on January 3, 2017 against them and their publishing company, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited (SCPPL), for alleged criminal conspiracy and alleged violations of the FCRA, in relation to funding received from the US-based Ford Foundation without the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Yet, according to Ms. Teesta Setalvad, the publishing house had a consultancy contract with the Ford Foundation, which excluded it from the restrictions of the FCRA.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms.Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand, which seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities, in particular their work for justice and truth with regard to the 2002 Gujarat riots (see background information).
The Observatory also urges the Indian authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand are conducted in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.
This is an excerpt of an article published on the OMCT's website on February 8, 2017.