PUCL, November 2003

PUCL condemns early morning raid conducted in the premises of People’s Watch Tamil Nadu

See also, Police raid on People's Watch premises

(Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry)
‘Husain House’, II Floor, 7/1 Kondi Chetty St., Chennai 600 001
Ph: 25245412, 25392459 e-mail : rights@vsnl.com
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 activities.

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 are serious…”.

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.

Yours sincerely,

V. Suresh
(Dr. V. Suresh)
General Secretary


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