African detainees at Lampur camp threaten to go on hunger strike
Five of the seven African nationals, Olayinka Suleiman, Jimmy Oteba, Vincent Nwachukwu, Hakeem Mohammed and Joshua Mensah, languishing at the Restricted Foreigners’ Detention Camp, Lampur, Delhi have threatened to go on an indefinite hunger strike from 1 June 2010 if they are not deported to their respective countries immediately or allowed to hire lawyers of their choice if an appeal is filed in the Delhi High Court against their acquittal by the trial court. Apart from these seven Africans, six African ladies are also detained at the Nirmal Chhaya Complex, Tihar, Delhi. These Africans have sent letters of appeal to the President of India, the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, the Home Minister and many others, with a copy to the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
It may be recalled that their case was earlier reported in the Hindustan Times on 26 March 2010. These detainees were arrested on various charges under the NDPS Act and had spent 4 to 8 years in jail before they were acquitted by the trial court as they were found ‘not guilty’. However, even after their acquittal they have spent 3 to 6 months at the detention camp without being deported to their respective countries on the plea that the Customs Department wishes to appeal to the High Court against the judgment of the trial court. But even that appeal has not been filed so far. It seems it is a ploy to keep them under illegal detention.
In an order dated 6 April 2010 the Delhi High Court had pulled up the Customs Commissioner of Indira Gandhi International Airport for keeping a Pakistani national in detention at the Lampur Centre even after his acquittal in a case on the ground that the Department would file an appeal against his acquittal. A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Madan B., Lokur and Justice Mukta Gupta had observed that “it is a serious matter, and liberty of an individual should not be taken away so lightly”. The Court had asked the Commissioner to prepare a time-bound scheme so that prisoners who are acquitted are released on priority. Expressing concern over other foreigners languishing at the detention centre, the Bench had observed that no country has the right to take away the right of individuals in an unlawful manner.
PUCL Delhi expresses its grave concern for the rights of these detained African nationals and appeals to the Hon’ble Lt. Governor of Delhi and the Union Home Minister to intervene in the matter for their speedy deportation before the matter takes an ugly turn.
Mahi Pal Singh (General Secretary), 23 May 2010