HRD Alert – India – Urgent Appeal for Action – Tamil Nadu: Arrest of cartoonist Mr. Bala for a caricature depicting inaction by Governemnt of Tamil Nadu on the suicide of a family due to harassment of money lenders in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu
India: official visit by the UN expert on safe drinking water and sanitation
GENEVA (24 October 2017) – United Nations human rights expert, Léo Heller, will visit India from 27 October to 10 November 2017 to examine the extent to which people’s rights to safe drinking water and sanitation are being realized.
“I will look at how human rights to water and sanitation are legally recognized and implemented in India at the national, state and local level, and how the provision of water and sanitation services adheres to human rights standards and principles,” said Mr. Heller, the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation worldwide.
The Special Rapporteur will gather information and testimony on the availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability and safety of drinking water and sanitation, with a particular focus on groups such as women and girls, persons with disabilities, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and those living in informal settlements and rural areas.
The human rights expert, who will visit the country at the invitation of the Government of India, will meet government representatives at national and local level as well as civil society and community organizations, residents in urban and rural areas, and UN officials.
He will visit the cities of Imphal, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai and New Delhi, as well as urban peripheries and rural areas.
“I want to explore what still needs to be undertaken to ensure the human rights to water and sanitation are enjoyed by all in India,” Mr. Heller noted.
At the end of his two-week visit, the Special Rapporteur will share his preliminary observations at a press conference on Friday 10 November 2017 at 10:00 local time in the UN Conference Hall, UN House, 55 Lodi Estate, New Delhi-110003. Access will be strictly limited to members of the press.
Mr. Heller will submit a full report of his findings and recommendations to the 39th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2018.
Mr. Léo Heller (Brazil) is the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, appointed in November 2014. He is a researcher in the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil and was previously Professor of the Department of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil from 1990 to 2014.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights country page – India
For additional information please contact:
Ms. Ahreum Lee +41 79-444 4187 / email@example.com
For media requests and queries relating to the press conference on 10 November please contact (in India): Mr. Rajiv Chandran, +91-11-46532237; +91-9810606833; firstname.lastname@example.org
Right Livelihood Award Laureate Sulak Sivaraksa, aged 84, faces up to 15 years in jail after being officially charged with lèse-majesté relating to a speech in which he referenced the role of 16th century King Naresuan at the Battle of Nong Sarai in 1593. 44 fellow Laureates from 32 different countries are today together with representatives of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation demanding the case be dismissed in an open letter to Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. Sivaraksa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 for his “vision activism and spiritual commitment in the quest for a development process that is rooted in democracy justice and cultural integrity”.
Please see the open letter below, and feel free to reach out if you would like to speak to Mr. Sivaraska in further detail re the charges.
Many thanks and best wishes, James
Dear Honourable Minister Pramudwinai,
We are writing to you on behalf of the board, staff and undersigned Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, a Swedish charity that honours four individuals or organisations each year who have demonstrated exemplary practical solutions to the root causes of global problems. The Foundation currently has 170 Laureates from 69 countries.
Sulak Sivaraksa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1995 for his “vision, activism and spiritual commitment in the quest for a development process that is rooted in democracy, justice and cultural integrity”.
We are deeply distressed to learn that on October 9th 2017, Ajarn Sulak was summoned to a military court by the police and was officially charged with lèse-majesté under Article 112 of the criminal code. The remarks in question relate to a speech given by Ajarn Sulak in 2014 at Thammasat University, during which he referenced the role of 16th century King Naresuan at the Battle of Nong Sarai in 1593. The Chief Public Prosecutor has required Ajarn Sulak to present himself at his office for another meeting on December 7th 2017, where he will determine whether to proceed with the case or not. If found guilty of the charge, Ajarn Sulak could face the prospect of up to 15 years’ imprisonment.
Ajarn Sulak did not make any statement referencing His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn, his immediate family, or his late father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, that would constitute an offence under Article 112 of the criminal code. Instead, Ajarn Sulak was simply exercising his freedom of academic expression to comment on historical matters. Therefore, we strongly believe that these charges brought against Ajarn Sulak are unsubstantiated, vexatious and do not constitute a criminal offence under the lèse-majesté law. We, the undersigned, urge you to use your good offices to request that the public prosecutor dismiss this case immediately.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
- Monika Griefahn, Chair, Board of Trustees, Right Livelihood Award Foundation.
- Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director, Right Livelihood Award Foundation.
- Prof Dr. h.c. (mult.) Manfred Max-Neef, Director, Economics Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile (RLA 1983)
- Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org, USA (RLA 2014)
- Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria (RLA 2010)
- Dr. Anwar Fazal, Director, Right Livelihood College, Malaysia (RLA 1982)
- Ruchama Marton, Founder and President, Physicians for Human Rights, Israel (RLA 2010)
- Chico Whitaker Ferreira, Brazil (RLA 2006)
- Tony Clarke, Executive Director, Polaris Institute, Canada (RLA 2005)
- Paul F. Walker, Director, Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International, USA (RLA 2013)
- David Suzuki, Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada (RLA 2009)
- Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan (RLA 2017)
- Dr. Raúl A. Montenegro, President, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente, Argentina (RLA 2004)
- Wesley Jackson, Founder and President, The Land Institute, USA (RLA 2000)
- P K Ravindran, Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, India (RLA 1996)
- Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, New Zealand/Switzerland (RLA 2009)
- Basil Fernando, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong (RLA 2014)
- Swami Agnivesh, India (RLA 2004)
- Angie Zelter, Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom (RLA 2001)
- Sima Samar, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, Afghanistan (RLA 2012)
- Bianca Jagger, Founder, President and Chief Executive, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, Member of the Executive Director’s Leadership Council of Amnesty International USA, Nicaragua/United Kingdom, (RLA 2004)
- Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director, Local Futures / Ladakh Ecological Development Group, India (RLA 1986)
- Shrikrishna Upadhyay, Executive Chairman, Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal, Nepal (RLA 2010)
- Monika Hauser, Founder, Medica Mondiale, Germany (RLA 2008)
- Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate, India (RLA 2017)
- Andras Brio, Hungary (RLA 1995)
- Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, South Korea (RLA 2003)
- Tapio Mattlar, Kylätoiminta / The Finnish Village Action Movement, Finland (RLA 1992)
- Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad (RLA 2011)
- Johan Galtung, Founder, Transcend International, Norway (RLA 1987)
- Martín von Hildebrand, Founder and Director, Fundación GAIA Amazonas, Colombia (RLA 1999)
- Juan Pablo Orrego, President, Ecosistemas, Chile (RLA 1998)
- Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians, Canada (RLA 2005)
- Stephen Corry, Director, Survival International, United Kingdom (RLA 1989)
- IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, Switzerland (RLA 1998)
- GRAIN, International (RLA 2011)
- Martin Almada, Paraguay (RLA 2002)
- Gino Strada, Co-Founder, EMERGENCY, Italy (RLA 2015)
- Asma Jahangir, Pakistan (RLA 2014)
- Glorene A Das, Executive Director Tenaganita, on behalf of the late Irene Fernandez, Malaysia (RLA 2005)
- Mozn Hassan, Director, Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies, Egypt (RLA 2016)
- Vesna Teršelič, Croatia (RLA 1998)
- Fernando Rendón, Co-Founder and Director, International Poetry Festival of Medellín, Colombia (RLA 2006)
- Helen Mack Chang, Fundación Myrna Mack, Guatemala (RLA 1992)
- Memorial International, Russia (RLA 2004)
- Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury, Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Bangladesh (RLA 1992)
 Signed in his personal capacity
All States should take a strong stand to address reprisals and to support a crucial resolution being negotiated at this session of the Human Rights Council. A weak resolution would seriously undermine the ability of the UN system to address the needs on the ground, said 50 national and international NGOs in a letter to Human Rights Council members.
Click here to read the joint NGO letter.
The resolution on reprisals being negotiated at this Council session provides a timely and much needed opportunity for the Council to take a stand on ‘worsening incidences of intimidation and reprisals’, as reported in the Secretary-General’s most recent report on reprisals. The Secretary General stressed that ‘any act of intimidation or reprisal is absolutely unacceptable’.
‘The detention of Ibrahim Metwally in Egypt en route to the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances session is a clear example of the dire need to act now and ensure that the right of all people to communicate with the United Nations is protected’ says ISHR’s Director Phil Lynch.
The resolution tabled by the core group – comprising Ghana, Hungary, Ireland, Fiji and Uruguay – calls on various stakeholders. This call was echoed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Right Defenders and by Peggy Hicks from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during a side event on this issue last week as they urged:
- Member States, in particular Council Members, to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms;
- States to take measures to prevent the occurrence of intimidation and reprisals;
- The Human Rights Council President and Bureau to address and follow up on allegations of acts of intimidation and reprisal; and
- All stakeholders to cooperate with the Assistant Secretary General on human rights regarding the mandate assigned to him by the Secretary General.
‘It is incredibly concerning that a resolution seeking to assist the Council to take a stand on the abhorrent trend of threats and attacks against those engaging with the UN, is being challenged so strongly. It is imperative that the Council adopt a strong and substantive resolution, following positive developments in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights‘, said Lynch.
Beyond the grave impact on the life of persons concerned and their relatives, intimidation and reprisals also constitute an ‘attack on human rights, the rule of law, and the international and regional mechanisms themselves‘. This was highlighted by ISHR in a statement to the Council earlier this session, when expressing deep regret that ‘four years since the detention and subsequent death of Cao Shunli, we continue to call on the President, this Council, the Assistant Secretary General and Chin to take action on her case’.
‘Any proposal to weaken the resolution should be seen in the context of ongoing, systematic efforts in a number of States to restrict civil society space, the right to communicate with the United Nations and its effectiveness and legitimacy’, said ISHR’s Legal Counsel and reprisals focal point Tess McEvoy.
‘If this is how defenders engaging at the UN are treated, it incidates a disturbing picture of the situation for defenders nationally. We call on all Member States to take action to address reprisals at the UN level in an effort to protect human rights on the ground’, added McEvoy.