'Disturbed' at Stan Swamy's Death, UN Rights Body Repeats Plea for Release of Political Prisoners

'High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the UN's independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders.'

New Delhi: The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed deep sadness and has noted that it is “disturbed” at the death of incarcerated human rights defender Father Stan Swamy in Mumbai on July 5.

The note released by the spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, mentioned that 84-year-old Swamy had been held in “pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest”.

It also mentions that the “long-standing activist” was charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for “terrorism-related offences in relation to demonstrations that date back to 2018.”

As The Wire had reported, in jail, the severely ailing Swamy was allegedly deprived of medical facilities, and for a while, even the straw and sipper that was essential for him to consume water with as he had Parkinson’s disease due to which his hands shook.

Stressing on the crushing deterioration of Stan Swamy’s health which in jail, where he also contracted COVID-19, the UN body repeated its call, once again, to the government of India to ensure that no one is “detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association.”

Also read: Killing Him Softly With His Song: A Requiem for Father Stan Swamy

On the Bhima Koregaon 16, and highlighting that there are those being detained in India without a sufficient legal basis, simply for expressing critical or dissenting views, the release also notes:

High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the same events with the Government of India over the past three years and urged their release from pre-trial detention.

In addition to the formal note, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders also tweeted on Stan Swamy’s death, calling the news “devastating.”

Lawlor had earlier tweeted on his health.

Eamon Gilmore, the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights also noted that the EU had been raising this case repeatedly with “authorities”.