IRCT is gravely concerned by the news of arbitrary detention and ongoing harassment of Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, the President of IRCT member CORE/H2H in Manipur, India. All harassment and reprisals against Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy and other human rights defenders in Manipur must end immediately so they can continue their legitimate and vital defense of human rights.
The IRCT has received credible information that on 3 April, Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy was picked up by the Police in Imphal, Manipur, threatened with false charges and detained for 26 hours in the Imphal West Police Station due to a Facebook post critical of the local government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy was detained without charges or appearing before a judge beyond the legal limit, and was only released after deleting the Facebook post and apologising to the Chief Minister on video.
The treatment of Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy constitutes illegal detention and violates his right to freedom of expression and international standards on protection of human rights defenders.
Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, an internationally known public health physician, has worked for decades to support torture victims in marginalised and indigenous communities to rebuild their lives. Now their basic livelihood is threatened by State lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 crisis. In this scenario, it is essential that Dr Laifungbam Debabrata Roy and other health professionals are enabled to provide support and speak out publicly in defence of human rights without fear of reprisals.
“In times like these, when States find it necessary to impose wide-ranging restrictions on their populations, we need health and human rights defenders to be able to examine and criticise the State publicly more than ever. This public dialogue is the very essence of a democratic response to a crisis”, said IRCT President, Jorge Aroche.
Therefore, the IRCT calls on the Indian authorities to:
- Desist and prevent reprisals against human rights defenders.
- Proactively promote and protect freedom of expression – in particular in relation to criticism of human rights violations in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Ensure that measures responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are in strict compliance with their obligations under the core UN human rights treaties ensuring a strong focus on protecting the economic and social rights of the most marginalised populations.