condemns early morning raid conducted in the premises of People’s
Watch Tamil Nadu
also, Police raid on People's Watch premises
PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
(Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)
‘Husain House’, II Floor, 7/1 Kondi Chetty St., Chennai 600
Ph: 25245412, 25392459 e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
National Council Member: Sudha Ramalingam
President : R. Niraimathi General Secretary: Dr. V. Suresh
Sub.: Condemnation of Police Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders –
Police Search on People’s Watch - Tamil Nadu, Madurai on 5.11.2003
PUCL-Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry strongly condemns the early morning
raid conducted in the premises of People’s Watch Tamil Nadu on 5.11.2003
in the garb of searching for some accused in a criminal case registered
in M. Pudupatti Police Station in Sivakasi Taluka. This is nothing but
an attempt to intimidate the human rights activists and staff of the well
known human rights organisation.
It is pertinent to point out that People’s Watch activists were
very active in the recently conducted public hearings conducted by the
National Commission for Women and the State Commission for Women in Virudhunagar,
Madurai on 27th and 28th October, 2003. The People’s Watch was one
of the main human rights organisations who facilitated the deposing of
numerous victims of police excesses before the NCW panel.
The moral, emotional and infrastructural support provided by People’s
Watch was instrumental in enabling women victims to fearlessly depose
to the variety of sexual abuses suffered by them at the hands of the police.
It is also learnt that the women victims had identified to the Commission
Panel the police officials who had committed the crimes against them.
Very senior police officials, including ADGP level officers, who attended
the Commission hearings were made answerable to the human rights violations
and the gross crimes committed by the Tamil Nadu police force.
We understand, that irked by the fact that the police excesses were being
exposed and victims were sufficiently empowered to openly depose against
the police, Mr. Henri Tiphagne, Advocate and Director, People’s
Watch was personally intimidated and threatened by senior police officials
present at the hearings.
It is also relevant to note that Mr. Henri Tiphagne was one of the active
members of a Citizens Committee in Madurai who opposed the Trishul distributin
programme of Mr. Togadia of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) during his
visit to Madurai on 30th October on the occasion of Muthuramalainga Thevar
Jayanthi. It is due to the active campaigning of the citizens group that
ultimately led to the denial of police permission for the Trishul distribution
programme. In this campaign, Mr. Henri Tiphagne and others from People’s
Watch played an important role.
Seen against this background, the search launched by the police is clearly
a thinly veiled attempt to use legal procedures to intimidate and browbeat
human rights defenders. It is to be noted that the search party consisted
of several vanloads of uniformed policemen and women, all of whom, barring
one solitary Inspector, Mr. Vellaiyan, came without wearing their name
badges. This is not only a violation of the directions of the Supreme
Court in D.K. Basu’s case but is also an attempt to take refuge
under anonymity and to escape being accountable for the act of highhandedness.
It is learnt that during the search the police used two videographers
to for videograph the entire premises and office of People’s Watch.
This is an abuse of the process of the law specially when the warrant
was only for search for two accused persons allegedly kept in People’s
Watch premises and not for search of the premises by itself.
Further the huge police contingent which descended upon the organisation
was clearly intended to overawe the human rights defenders of the organisation
and was calculated to create terror and panic.
The scale of the search operation clearly underscores the growing intolerance
of the Tamil Nadu police to any complaints of excesses committed by its
personnel in the state. It also highlights the extent to which they seek
impunity for their illegal actions and the extent to which they will go
to ensure that no one in the state will dare to question their illegal
We would like to point out that the continuing threats to human rights
defenders from state agencies and others prompted the United Nations General
Assembly to unanimously adopt by consensus, resolution 53/144 on 9th December,
1998 known as the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals,
Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The Report of the Special Representative
of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders dated 26th January,
2001 points out that,
“ The recurrent problem in the protection of human rights defenders
remains the lack or inefficient implementation of the normative frameworks.
There have already been a considerable number of communications which
allege serious human rights violations targeting human rights defenders,
from which no region is free. The risks faced by human rights defenders
PUCL Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry demands that a full fledged enquiry be
launched by the National Commission for Women and the National Human Rights
commission into the entire event. We also demand that immediate action
against the police persons concerned. We appeal to the police to refrain
from further intimidatory tactics and to honour the United Nations Covenants
and Declarations protecting the Rights of Human Rights Defenders.
(Dr. V. Suresh)