IMPHAL, December 17: The Amnesty International, India got over 16,000 people to support the campaign seeking the immediate and unconditional release of human rights activist and ‘Prisoner of Conscience,’ Irom Sharmila Chanu, said G Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International, India.
At a press conference held at the premise of Manipur Press Club today, he further stated that the governments of Manipur and Delhi should heed the thousand of voices urging them to drop all charges against Irom Sharmila and release her immediately.
He continued that ‘Irom Sharmila is a Prisoner of Conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs and her time in custody is a continuing reminder of India’s intolerance to dissent’.
Sharmila has been on a prolonged hunger strike for the last 13 years, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA). He added that in March 2013, Delhi court also charge Irom Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide in October 2006, where she staged a protest in Delhi for two days.
On October 30, 2013 India’s National Human Right Commission directed the government of Manipur to immediate remove the restriction on access to Irom Sharmila, calling them a “breach of India’s obligations under international human rights standards and principles and a grave violation of Human rights”.
Ananthapadmanabhan added that the commission acknowledged that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is not an attempt to commit suicide but a protest against human right violations.
He further said that “authorities must not use charges of attempted suicide to deflect attention from the important issues that Sharmila is raising at a huge personal cost”.
In February, 2012, the Supreme Court of India observed in the ruling in the Ram Lila Maidan Incident case that a hunger strike is “a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our Constitution jurisprudence”.
He further said that the British Medical Association in a briefing to the world Medical Association has clarified that “a hunger strike is not equivalent to suicide. Individual who embarks on hunger strike aim to achieve goals important to them but generally hope and intend to survive”.
This position is embodied by the World Medical Association in its Malta Declaration on Human Strikers.
Speaking to Amnesty International India in September, 2013 Irom Sharmila inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, said “My struggle is my message. I love my life very much and want to have the freedom to meet peopleand struggle for issues close to my heart” Ananthapadmanabhan said
The AFSPA fall short of international human rights standards including provision of treatise to which India is a state party; and is inconsistent with India’s international legal obligation to respect and protest the right to life, liberty and security of person, to freedom torture and other ill-treatment, and to an effective remedy.
He added that several UN bodies and experts, including the special rapporteur on the human rights defenders have stated that the AFSPA must be repealed.
Later a number of Indian bodies, including the second Administration Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Committee and the Prime Minister’s working group on confidence Building Measure in Jammu and Kashmir have also urged the repeal of the law.
The Justice Verma committee, set up to review laws against sexual assault, said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimized impurity for sexual violence. The Justice Santosh Heghe Commission, set up by the Supreme Court in January 2013 to investigate cases of extrajudicial executions in Manipur, described the law as “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness, said Ananthapadmanabhan.
Yesterday, the Amnesty International India met Irom Sharmila and handed the letter from the school students from Bangalore. The team also met Dy CM Gaikhangam and talked about AFSPA’s repeal.