By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, AUGUST 29—Amnesty International India has alleged that Delhi police have actively played an allegedly nefarious role during February riots in parts of northeast Delhi and was complicit in the anti-Muslim pogrom.
A detailed field investigation report released by the Amnesty has documented scores of human rights violations allegedly committed by the Delhi police ts which include Delhi police officers indulging in violence siding with anti-Muslim rioters, torturing innocent Muslims in custody, using excessive force on Muslim protesters, dismantling protest sites used by peaceful protesters and being mute bystanders as rioters wreaked havoc on the Muslims.
The twenty page report lays threadbare the alleged “criminal role” of the Delhi Police citing that ‘Nobody is above the law – especially those who have a duty to uphold it’ and makes a vociferous appeal for an independent and impartial investigation into the role of Delhi police and its partnership with the rioters and their hidden masterminds.
Disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations
Amnesty International as part of documenting the report spoke to riot survivors, eye witnesses, human rights activists, civil society members, retired police officers and analysed several user-generated videos on the social media and online news platform which unearthed a disturbing pattern of grave human rights violations committed by the Delhi police during the riots
Delhi police are a law unto themselves
Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India in a scathing indictment of MHA-controlled police said, “The Delhi police reports to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and it is shocking that there has been no attempt by the MHA to hold the Delhi police accountable till now. This, despite several of their violations being live-streamed on social media platforms. There have been several news and fact-finding reports published during these six months documenting the violations. This includes a report filed by the Delhi Minority Commission (DMC). But there has been no action taken against the police so far. In this investigative briefing, we try to hold the Delhi police accountable and the current ongoing state sponsored impunity that the Delhi police enjoy sends across the message that the police can commit grave human rights violations and evade accountability. They are a law unto themselves,” he said.
Delhi Police enjoy impunity despite its alleged role in riots
The report says that Union Home Minister Amit Shah gave a clean chit to the Delhi police in the Lok Sabha on March 11, where he said, “Controlling and putting a full stop to riots in just 36 hours in a dense area is a very difficult task. I must say that Delhi police did a commendable job”.
However, Amnesty International India has countered the home minister’s statement and emphatically stated it does not point towards a ‘commendable’ job but reveals a pattern of human rights violations and rampant impunity. It further said that there have been no investigations till date into the human rights violations committed by the Delhi police during the riots. The investigative briefing begins with the build-up to the riots in February 2020 and documents the hateful political speeches made by political leaders and presents a timeline of police brutality in university campuses in Delhi.
The alleged dubious role of Delhi police’s inadequate response in preventing the riots has been well documented. The Delhi police’s complicity and active participation in the violence has been premised on its denial of medical services to victims, participation in the violence, excessive and arbitrary use of force on protesters and differential treatment of assemblies. The briefing also demonstrates a pattern of torture and ill-treatment meted out on riot survivors and detainees by the Delhi police after the violence followed by the harassment and intimidation of survivors and peaceful protesters.
State Repression of peaceful protestors
The report accused Delhi police of resorting to violence against students on university campuses who were protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The CAA was passed in December 2019 which sparked nationwide peaceful protests by Muslim community and liberals from broad spectrum of the society.
Post-Delhi elections, the hate speeches continued to be delivered by hate mongering politicians of the ultra-right wing leading to widespread violence in the northeast district of Delhi. To date, the Delhi police have not taken any action against the perpetrators leading to a climate of widespread impunity. Their heavy-handed crowd-control tactics on university campuses have been captured in various videos which were uploaded on social media platforms and verified by Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab. The report also presents a detailed timeline of key hate speeches and state repression of peaceful protesters leading up to the riots in Delhi.
Delhi Police behaviour is a cause of concern for its ruthless and inhuman treatment of individuals
Amnesty International found that the behaviour of the police officers in many incidents during the Delhi violence is a cause of concern as police officers did not intervene despite being present, intervened only to arrest or attack the anti-CAA protesters and refused to register complaints of the victims.
In a video that went viral on social media, Delhi police officers can be seen kicking and hitting a group of five wounded men, poking them with rifles and asking them to sing the Indian National Anthem on February 24, the report pointed out.
The rights group stated that the cops are given powers to use force and firearms to enforce the law. However, the use of force must only be resorted to with the utmost respect for the law and with due consideration for the serious impact it can have on a range of human rights, the right to life, to physical and mental integrity, to human dignity, to privacy, and to freedom of movement. The ruthless treatment of the heavily injured men by the Delhi police violated the international human rights standards that allow for force to be used only as a last resort, as much necessary to achieve the objective of such use and proportional to the objective. The principle of proportionality means that law enforcement officials are only allowed to put life at risk if it is for the purpose of saving and protecting another life. In Indian law, sections 129, 130 and 131 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empower the police officers and armed forces to use only necessary or ‘little’ force’ to disperse an unlawful assembly on the order of the Executive Magistrate or officer-in-charge of the police station. The said section carries pictures of Muslim victims of Delhi police apathy where their quotes reveal the criminality of the central law enforcement agency which has failed to protect the people and their lives.
Torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in detention
The report throws light on the inhuman treatment of Muslim detainees of Delhi police. It quotes Nargis Saifi, wife of jailed social worker Khalid Saifi who alleged that she had seen her husband in wheel chair. Nargis said that her husband went on two feet but was subject to cruel and inhuman torture while he was in police custody. The Delhi police have also been accused of misbehaving and attacking lawyers and journalists. The report quotes Sunny Tayeng, a lawyer with Human Rights Law Network, a non-governmental organisation who said that she along with other lawyers were not allowed to speak to their clients as part of the sinister justice denial mechanism of Delhi Police. The report says that United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (UNCAT), which India has signed but is yet to ratify, prohibits torture. Discrimination constitutes an essential element of the definition of torture in the Convention. The discriminatory use of mental or physical violence or an abuse is an important factor in determining whether an act constitutes torture. With reference to minorities, the Committee Against Torture has expressly stated that “the protection of certain minority or marginalized individuals or populations especially at risk of torture is a part of the obligation to prevent torture or ill-treatment,” the report noted.
State sponsored impunity must end
The report concludes with very strong recommendations that the police officers and politicians must be held accountable for their unlawful conduct and criminal behaviour vis-a-vis minorities during Delhi riots. The vicious cycle of violence unleashed can end only when the victims and their family members are administered justice by the state by criminal prosecution of those involved in the riots, it said. It has called the home ministry to initiate a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by Delhi police for excessive use of force, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, failure to protect the survivors and other individuals from attacks by far-right groups and the unlawful use of firearms. It has called for establishment of a fully independent, public and transparent inquiry to review the Delhi police’s role in failing to prevent and aiding the violence and immediate suspension of all police officers named by the communities, pending investigation.
Amnesty International has asked the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Ministry to criminalise torture in domestic law, establish jurisdiction over acts of torture that occur within the state, make torture an extraditable offence, investigate allegations of torture within the state and provide effective and enforceable remedy to torture victims expeditiously and swiftly in accordance with recommended guidelines of United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT).