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India: Fear for safety / fear of torture

, Index number: ASA 20/016/1998

Jaspal Singh Dhillon and Rajinder Singh Neeta, human rights defenders are reported to be at risk of torture in detention. Kulbir Kaur Dhami and Daljit Singh Rajput are also thought to be at risk of arrest and possible torture.

PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 20/16/98
UA 211/98 Fear for safety / fear of torture 24 July 1998
INDIAJaspal Singh Dhillon, human rights defender (detained)
Rajinder Singh Neeta, human rights defender (detained)
Kulbir Kaur Dhami (f), human rights defender
Daljit Singh Rajput, human rights defender
Jaspal Singh Dhillon, arrested on 23 July 1998 may be at risk of torture in
detention. There are also fears for the safety of Rajinder Singh Neeta, after
unconfirmed reports that he has been tortured by police and is being held in
solitary confinement. Kulbir Kaur Dhami and Daljit Singh Rajput are also
thought to be at risk of arrest and possible torture.
On 19 June, the Director General of Police (DGP) of the Indian state of Punjab,
Mr P.C. Dogra, declared at a press conference that police had uncovered a
conspiracy to secure the escape of several prisoners at Burail Jail, Chandigarh,
who are charged with assassinating the former Chief Minister of Punjab in 1995.
Amongst those accused and subsequently arrested are Jaspal Singh Dhillon and
Rajinder Singh Neeta. Kulbir Kaur Dhami and Daljit Singh Rajput are also
implicated. Amnesty International is concerned that they may be targeted as
a result of their human rights activities in Punjab.
Jaspal Singh Dhillon was picked up from the home of a friend in Chandigarh
on 23 July by police from Ropar district and charged with sedition. He was
denied pre-arrest bail and was today remanded to police custody at Sohana police
station for two days.
Rajinder Singh Neeta was arrested by Punjab police on 12 June and illegally
detained for nine days before being brought before a court on 21 June. Indian
law requires that detainees are brought before a magistrate within 24 hours
of arrest.
Jaspal Singh Dhillon is the Chair of the Human Rights and Democracy Forum,
a human rights group operating in Punjab. The group has pursued many cases
against Punjab police through the courts and provided legal aid to detainees,
including those currently facing charges for the assassination of the former
Chief Minister, Beant Singh. Rajinder Singh Neeta is also a member of the
Forum, while Daljit Singh Rajput is a lawyer in the Punjab High Court appearing
for the accused in the assassination case.
Jaspal Singh Dhillon is also closely involved with the Coordination Committee
on Disappearances in Punjab, a group established in recent months to coordinate
the investigation of past "disappearances" in the region. He was himself
previously "disappeared" after being arrested by Punjab police in August 1993
and was produced by police the following month only after an international
campaign to secure his release. Both he and Kulbir Kaur Dhami have been
involved in establishing a trust for children affected by the former conflict
in Punjab.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Human rights defenders in Punjab have regularly been subjected to harassment
and direct human rights violations. Several lawyers who have taken up human
rights issues in the courts have "disappeared" in the past and are believed
to have been killed in custody. In September 1995, Jaswant Singh Khalra,
General Secretary of the Human Rights Wing of the Akali Dal political party
"disappeared" following arrest by the Punjab police. At the time of his
2
"disappearance", Mr Khalra was working with Jaspal Singh Dhillon to expose
the illegal cremation of hundreds of unidentified bodies by Punjab police.
Both men alleged that these were the bodies of hundreds of individuals who
had "disappeared" in Punjab in previous years following arrest by police.
Their investigations led to the Supreme Court ordering inquiries by the Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
which are still continuing. Nine police officials have been charged with
abducting Jaswant Singh Khalra but they have not yet been prosecuted
In recent months, police were found to have filed false charges against the
wife of Jaswant Singh Khalra and members of the "Khalra Action Committee" in
an attempt to intimidate them (see Amnesty International’s report, India: A
Mockery of Justice, April 1998, AI Index: ASA 20/07/98). An investigation
is continuing into this incident. Reports indicate that intimidation
continues: on 15 July, an eyewitness to Mr Khalra’s abduction, Rajiv Singh
Randhawa, was arrested.
Hundreds of petitions are being heard in the courts in Punjab against police
for a range of human rights violations committed in the 1980s and 1990s during
operations against armed opposition groups fighting for an independent Sikh
state of Khalistan. In recent years the police, including senior officials,
have called on the government to take steps to prevent police being prosecuted
by the courts for human rights violations.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
English or your own language:
- urging the authorities to immediately order an independent investigation
into allegations that false cases have been filed against Jaspal Singh Dhillon,
Rajinder Singh Neeta, Kulbir Kaur Dhami and Daljit Singh Rajput as a means
of intimidation;
- urging the authorities to immediately review the detention of Jaspal Singh
Dhillon and Rajinder Singh Neeta and to order an independent investigation
into reports that Mr Neeta was illegally detained for several days during which
time he was tortured;
- urging the authorities to take prompt action against any police officials
found responsible for filing false charges against human rights defenders as
a means of harassment or intimidation.
APPEALS TO:
Mr Prakash Singh Badal Mr Lal Krishna Advani
Chief Minister of Punjab Minister of Home Affairs
Office of the Chief Minister Ministry of Home Affairs
Chandigarh, Punjab North Block
India New Delhi 110 001, India
Telegrams: Chief Minister Telegrams: Home Minister
Chandigarh, India New Delhi, India
Faxes: +91 172 741 821 Faxes: +91 11 301 5750
Salutation: Dear Chief Minister Salutation: Dear Home Minister
Copies to diplomatic representatives of INDIA accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 4 September 1998.

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