6 April 2019 12:17 PM GMT
American Bar Association Centre for Human Rights (ABACHR) has issued a statement condemning the imprisonment of Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem under the National Security Act.Mr. Wangkhem was arrested on November 27 last year for posting a video severely criticising the BJP-led state government for comparing the freedom movement of Manipur with that of the Rani of Jhansi. In the...
American Bar Association Centre for Human Rights (ABACHR) has issued a statement condemning the imprisonment of Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem under the National Security Act.
Mr. Wangkhem was arrested on November 27 last year for posting a video severely criticising the BJP-led state government for comparing the freedom movement of Manipur with that of the Rani of Jhansi. In the video – shot in Meitei language – he had questioned the contribution of the Rani of Jhansi to the state's freedom movement and had hurled abuses at the BJP and RSS. He had essentially blamed the ruling disposition for state chief minister N. Biren Singh making such a comparison in a speech.
In the video, Mr. Wangkhem had also challenged the state government to "come and arrest" him "if it can" for opposing it. He was then arrested under the Act and has been imprisoned ever since. His detention was challenged before the Manipur High Court in December last year and a special bench of the court had reserved its judgment in the case last month. Meanwhile, the State's action has drawn massive criticism from lawyers, judges, journalists and rights activists across the world.
ABACHR's statement asserts that Mr. Wangkhem is being held in violation of India's obligations under international law – in particular, India's obligation to preserve the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary detention. It states, "Police documents, the NSA Arrest Order, and submissions by the government during the habeas corpus proceedings improperly cite legitimate expressions of opinion - Facebook videos in which Mr. Wangkhem cursed and criticized the ruling party - as the predicate for detention. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, India is required to protect the right to freedom of expression, including the expression of unpopular opinions."
The statement acknowledges that while the journalist's "profanity-laced" statements may have been unpalatable, they did not pose any threat to national security and hence, do not justify his imprisonment.
ABACHR then urges the Manipur High Court to uphold India's obligations under international law, order the immediate release of Mr. Wangkhem, and ensure that he receives adequate medical treatment. It assures that it will issue a complete report following the judgment.