Tough questions on religious freedom at UN human rights periodic review
It appears India believes that their laws and judicial decisions, in the area of Religious Freedom and Human Rights, is sufficient. However, their response to “egregious violations such as torture and attacks on religious minorities” does not satisfy the UN or ICC. “By employing a defensive and largely self righteous position at the HRC, the Government of India has, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with,” said Miloon Kothari.
06/04/2012 India (ChristianToday)- Concerns over India’s right to freedom of religion and belief, anti-conversion laws and targeting of religious minorities were expressed by UN member countries that participated in India’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 24 May 2012 in Geneva.
“The Indian government’s insistence at the international level that existing laws and judicial decisions are sufficient to deal with egregious violations such as torture and attacks on religious minorities is very disappointing,” the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), said in a release.
Last week, the UPR Working Group adopted a draft report on India’s Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism of the UN to review human rights record of all its member states.
The Government of India’s oral response during the UPR session was purportedly marked by a “general lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and Constitutional provisions”.
Even on the Communal Violence Bill, the Human Rights Council (HRC) took note of the Government’s ‘uncertainty’ for such a law that aims to protect minorities.
Eighty countries participated in India’s UPR and made a total of 169 recommendations on a whole range of critical human rights issues.
Some of the recommendations made to India include the call to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances; repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); adopt the Communal Violence Bill; enact comprehensive reforms to address sexual violence and all acts of violence against women; improve human rights training of police officers; consider abolishing the death penalty or establish a moratorium; ban all forms of child labour; strengthen efforts towards addressing maternal and child mortality; and strengthen efforts to combat trafficking.
India reportedly declined to comment on any of the 169 recommendations at the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, May 30. It has rather decided to examine all the recommendations and respond to them prior to the plenary session of the HRC in Geneva in September 2012.
Says Miloon Kothari, Convenor of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN: “By employing a defensive and largely self righteous position at the HRC, the Government of India has, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.”
“The opportunity also still exists, prior to the final adoption of India’s report in September 2012, for the Government to begin a process of serious consultations with civil society and independent actors,” she said.
“It is only when such steps, consistent with a democratic mode of governance, are taken that the UN will be convinced that the Government of India is serious about fostering an atmosphere that will contribute to an improvement in the adverse human rights situation on the ground.”