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Amnesty International statement on the arrest of Ajay TG

Free Binayak Sen Campaign

India: Concern over the arrest of filmmaker and human rights defender
T.G. Ajay in Chhattisgarh

Amnesty International, ASA 20/010/2008

Amnesty International is concerned over the apparently arbitrary arrest
of T. G. Ajay, a film-maker and human rights defender who has been
documenting problems faced by adivasi (indigenous) communities in
protecting their rights, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.

Ajay is the second human rights defender to be arrested under the
Chhattisgarh State Public Security Act, 2005 (CSPSA), in the state. He
is a member of the state executive committee of the People’s Union of
Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Ajay is being held in Raipur jail, where Dr. Binayak Sen, general
secretary of the state PUCL and a physician working on access to health
for adivasis, today completed one year of imprisonment. Dr. Sen now
faces a trial on charges of aiding a banned Maoist organisation, the
Communist Party of India (Maoist). 1

On 5 May, Ajay was arrested at his residence at Superla in Bhilai and
charged at the Bilaspur High Court under Section 124A of the Indian
Penal Code (sedition) and Sections 3, 4 and 8 of the CSPSA.

Amnesty International has reason to believe that the charges against
Ajay are politically motivated. Ajay has been actively engaged, since
2004, in documentation of human rights violations as part of the PUCL’s
ongoing efforts to protect the rights of adivasi communitiesin the face
of escalating violence in the Bastar-Dantewada area of Chattisgarh
between banned Maoists and Salwa Judum, an armed anti-Maoist militia
campaign widely regarded as supported by the state government. The PUCL
has been instrumental in bringing to light unlawful killings of
adivasis, sexual assault of adivasi women, abductions and forced
displacement.

On 22 January 2008, following the arrest of a woman Maoist in
Bastar-Dantewada, the Chhattisgarh police searched Ajay’s residence and
seized his computer hard disk. On 26 March, Ajay filed a petition in the
High Court seeking its return.

Amnesty International calls on the Union and Chattisgarh governments

* to ensure Ajay’s prompt and fair trial in accordance with
international standards of fairness.
* to take concrete measures to ensure that human rights defenders
in Chhattisgarh are not subject to harassment or intimidation and enjoy
all the rights enshrined in international law.

Background

Since 2005, Chhattisgarh, especially the Bastar-Dantewada forest area,
has experienced an escalation of violence between the Maoists and the
Salwa Judum. Civilians have been routinely targeted on both sides,
resulting in at least 300 deaths. Also, 30,000 adivasis displaced from
their homes continue to live in special camps where they face increased
risk of violence. The Chhattisgarh state government claimed that it
enacted the CSPSA to take action against the Maoists.

The CSPSA allows for arbitrary detention of persons suspected of
belonging to an unlawful organization or participating in its activities
or giving protection to any member of such an organization.

Human rights organizations in India have demanded the repeal of CSPSA as
it contains several provisions which violate international human rights law:

* Vague and sweeping definitions of “unlawful activities” for which
organizations may be rendered “unlawful”, such as “uttering words… which
propounds the disobedience” of “established law and its institutions”.
Such definitions enable the government to arrest and detain individuals,
as well as seek their punishment, on grounds that may not be clear to
them, in violation of the principle of certainty in criminal law,
reflected in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, to which India is a state party;
* Threats, as a result, to other key human rights including freedom
of expression and association, provided in Articles 19 and 22 of the
ICCPR, respectively;
* All offences under the CSPSA are “cognizant and non-bailable”;
hence all those charged under the Act are detained, often for months,
before being tried. In Dr. Sen’s case, he was detained on 14 May 2007,
his trial commenced on 30 April 2008 and is currently adjourned till 23
June 2008.

Public Document

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International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London
WC1X 0DW, UK

www.amnesty.org

1 Amnesty International, India: Chattisgarh government detains human
rights defender, refuses to arrest police officials suspected of
involvement in unlawful killings of adivasis, AI Index: ASA 20/013/2007,
24 May 2007. See
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/013/2007/en/dom-ASA200132007en.html