Report prepared on 17 October 2015 by Dr. Charles Graves, who chaired the above three meetings and took notes. Forwarded by Sanjoy Barua, UN Representative of Liberation.
Meeting 17 September 2015 Room XXIII 11:00-12:00 on ‘Violations Against Human Rights Defenders’ Co-sponsors:World Barua Organization; Chrapa/CDHP; MBOSCUDA
Mr. Kshetrimayum Onil from REACHOUT – an organisation working for sustainable peace and development in the conflict region of North East India) noted “the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 is still in force in India. Human Rights defenders (not members of armed insurgent groups) are arbitrarily detailed and tortured. Phones are tapped. As ‘peace workers’ we are in touch with the insurgents (and could be mediators) but we. like them,are harassed and even assassinated.”
Ms. Rosetta War, a women’s rights activist from Megalaya in n.e. India noted the harassment of women demonstrating in her region against the Indian government’s policies and that they were treated just like the militants (insurgents). Independent meetings are forbidden.
Ms. Elgalia Djini (Association of the Victims of Saharoui Human Rights Violations) spoke about the occupation of Western Sahara by the government of Morocco. Whilst a film was being shown about her issues, she spoke about human rights violations of those who oppose the occupation, including at least 324 enforced disappearances – she herself ‘disappeared’ for four years, 1987-1991. She noted an embargo on information concerning the continued war and that from 1994-1998 there was a continued surveillance of opponents as well as arbitrary detentions judged by military tribunals. From 1999 demonstrations began in Layoune but the opponents were accused of drug trafficking, working for Algeria etc. In 2010 a civil society organization was created which was subsequently banned. In 2005 there was a demonstration on behalf of independence for Western Sahara but no foreign journalists were allowed. This was followed by a demonstration in 2015 in which the speaker took part. The film accompanying her speech showed the demonstration of 15 April 2014 in which the opponents (Polisario) of the government policy toward Western Sahara were persecuted. There is an active persecution of those who oppose the government policy. Other demonstrations were shown on the film. The speaker said that her son cannot admit the filiation to her for fear he will not be able to enter university.
Her movement has been coming to the Human Rights Council for 6-7 years.
Question and Answer Period
Mr. Irom Singhit Singh from Manipur (n.e. India) spoke about his sister Sharmila who has been in custody since 2000 because of her hunger strike protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, in force in her region since 1958. She is being forcibly fed and continually accused to trying to commit suicide (against the law).
The wife of a prisoner at Rabat (Morocco) spoke that she was in the demonstrations at Layoun noted by the speaker and that the police attacked the demonstrating women, Foreign media were not allowed.
Meeting 21 September 2015 Room XXIV 15:00-16:30 on ‘Women’s and Childrens’ Rights’ Defenders’; Co-sponsors:World Barua Organization; Chrapa/CDHP; MBOSCUDA
Mr. Irom Singhit Singh (Voices for Peace) spoke about his younger sister who has been on a hunger strike in Manipur for a decade. She is released from prison every year but continues the strike (which is considered as suicide by the authorities and thus illegal) and then she is re-arrested. Her aim is have the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ repealed as it is in force in Manipur and elsewhere in India. Mr. Singhit Singh pointed out the impunity under which the state police and army act in Manipur and also the low status of Manipur women. Some work in the state-owned quarry; children are not schooled properly and the traditional society of Manipur is disintegrating- the business sector is occupied now by Indians coming from outside. Out of 2.7 million people in Manipur only 1.7 million are indigenous Manipur people and there is racial discrimination against these people. Manipur has only 2 members of the Indian Parliament and local government and central government never discuss the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Mr. Singhit Singh is not an extremist – he simply calls for the same rights as all other Indians.
Mr.Mangal Kumar Chakma of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati (PCJSS) (CHT United People’s Party) Spoke on behalf of the women and children of the Chittagong Hills Tribe region in Bangladesh where he presented the figures of sexual violence against women. He stated that sexual violence was being used as a weapon by the Bangladeshi majority in his region whereby the indigenous tribespeople are the victims. The offenders act with impunity and the police are insensitive. The tribal people are being terrorized so as to remove them from their ancient lands. His organization made an agreement with the government but it has not been implemented as intended (Mr. Chakma presented a booklet on this agreement entitled ‘A Brief Report-On Implementation of the CHT Accord’(37 pp.) He also showed a book (208 pp.) entitled ‘Human Rights Report 2014 on Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh’ by editors Prof. Mong Shanoo Chowdhury and Pallab Chakma published by the Kapeeng Foundation 2015. It outlines Civil and Political Rights; Rights of Land and Natural Resources; Situation of Indigenous Women and Girls, Rights of Youth and Education; and the ‘CHT Accord’ of 1997.
Ms. Rosetta War, a women’s rights activist from Megalaya in N. E. India spoke about paramilitary groups operating against indigenous people in Megalaya whereby at least 100 persons have died. Incidents of women ‘committing suicide’ in police stations are misrepresented– probably the death was due to police brutality. Traditionally, in Megalaya society women and children were highly respected but this is being reversed today.
Mr. Hassan Dveihi, Association of Victims of the Kingdom of Morocco spoke about the human rights situation of inhabitants of Western Sahara (originally a Spanish colony now under control of Morocco). He notes physical and psychological abuses with 600 violations in the last three years, including beatings and intimidation of, in particular, women who believe in the independence of Western Sahara. The Moroccan authorities are not taking account of the complaints and those who oppress the Polisario members are given state promotions and certain women are restricted in their movements in and out of Morocco. Peaceful demonstrations against the government in Layoune have been brutally repressed. In general, rights to employment of women related to the Polisario have not been respected.
Question and Answer Period:
A comment was made that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was also in force in Indian Kashmir.
In Tripura (another of the ‘Seven Sisters’ along with Manipur and Megalaya in n.e. India) the people from mainland India are also becoming the majority population.
As far as human rights violations in Western Sahara is concerned, these have also been documented by at least 120 external observers, including a team of Spanish lawyers.
A representative of an Indian NGO commented that India was a land of many regions and peoples and they are (or should be) treated equally.
Meeting 22 September 2015 Room XXI 17:00-18:00 on ‘Truth and Justice’ Co-sponsors:World Barua Organization;Chrapa/CDHP; MBOSCUDA
Ms.Kheira Youcef (Non-Violence Western Sahara provided background information about the conflict in the Western Sahara: the area came under Spain in 1884 and declared independence in 1980 (UN resolution 14/151). In 1963 a list was made including countries under colonial rule and Western Sahara (under the Kingdom of Morocco) was considered as such; The Polisario was organized 1973 to liberate Western Sahara; in 1975 the International Court of Justice gave an opinion that ‘Western Sahara should have no tie to Morocco’.; In October 1975 took place the Green March and the ‘Madrid Accords’ related to Morocco and Mauritania vis à vis the territory of Western Sahara and in 1979 Mauritania withdrew from Western Sahara. Thereupon Morocco colonized part of the region and built a wall 2500 miles long in 1981-87 In 1991 the cease-fire of the United Nations came into effect.
Western Sahara holds much phosphate reserves and 70% of Morocco’s fishing catch.
Many states support the self-determination of Western Sahara and it (Polisario) is a member of the African Union.
The speaker wishes a peaceful solution to the conflict but regrets the disappearances of more than 400 persons affiliated to the Polisario. She wishes that their stories could be heard. She noted the list of Western Sahara residents proposed by UN representative James Baker (as basis for the referendum) and said some were partial, some contradictory. Most of the supporters of the Polisario were in camps at the time and not counted. Some had died under the Morocco occupation forces. Her family members had suffered along with the others. The Basque University Carlos Martin had found two mass graves in the liberated area with 8 victims, including 2 children – these persons had been kidnapped. But investigation of the requests concerning the mass graves had become too complicated through government delays.
Question and Answer period on the Polisario (the other speakers, mentioned below, had not yet spoken at this side-event since they were in the main Conference room giving their interventions).
A Saharoui person asked if there had not been violation of human rights also in the Polisario Tindouf camp (inside Algeria)( She had a different interpretation of the authors of human rights violations vis à vis Western Sahara. Women, children and old persons were victims in that camp, and the speaker (Ms. Yousef) had not lived there
Ms. Yousef admitted there were violations of human rights in the Tindouf camp. But said that she, also, had been in a refugee camp.
Mr. Sameer Taware (Voices for Peace) noted Mr. Ambedkar, leader of the Dalit movement in India who was a leading opponent of caste discrimination. Dr. Ambedkar had studied to be a barrister-at-law and held a socialist ideology. He believed in equal justice, a ‘just’ society, and the liberty, equality and fraternity of the French democracy.
The speaker, in reference to discrimination against Dalits (Untouchables), noted that even as late as the 1920s Dalits were not allowed to draw water from public wells for fear of their contamination. Dalits today do all the menial jobs: street and drain cleaning, prostitution etc. They are not supposed even to be seen by upper classes – that which might bring pollution. Dalits cannot ride horses or openly celebrate marriages. Dalit women in particular are targeted in Indian society, with frequent rape and exploitation. During the recent protests about the woman raped on a Delhi bus, Dalit women were also being raped elsewhere but there was little publicity about it.
Dalits are victims of mob violence in India – houses are set afire and there is a general policy to prevent Dalit children from getting a good education.
Mr. Jamatia Mevor Kumar (/secretary, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT)) noted that in his area of n.e, India, after 1949 there had been a guarantee that all previous Acts in Tripura would be incorporated in the laws or be considered valid until repealed. But after annexation of Tripura by India, these agreements were violated.
By 1956 the number of immigrants (from India) into Tripura had become equal to the number of indigenous people. The borders are open to all and everybody today and the indigenous people are harassed or exploited by the Bangladeshi immigrants. Many refugees out of ‘East Pakistan’ (later Bangladesh) were allowed to enter Tripura during the troubles there – these refugees should have been sent to all the other states of India as well.