Activist countries

Countries have urged India to improve its human rights record at the UN –

United Nations member states have urged India to take a tougher stance on religious discrimination and sexual violence as they raise India’s human rights record in a Universal Periodic Review ( UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Many countries have been quick to raise critical issues related to India’s deteriorating stance on minority rights, freedom of expression and violence against women, in particular.

On Thursday, member states also called on India to scale back the broad application of “counter-terrorism” laws, including the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The Hindu nationalist government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has widely used draconian laws like UAPA and sedition, particularly targeting Muslim groups and human rights activists, without giving them the opportunity to have a fair trial.

Hundreds of young Muslims and human rights defenders languish in jail across India on charges of “terrorism”.

“We recommend India to scale back the broad application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and similar laws against human rights activists, journalists and religious minorities,” said Michele Taylor, United States Ambassador to the Council.

She went on to say, “Despite legal protections, discrimination and violence based on gender and religious affiliation persist. The application of anti-terrorism legislation has led to prolonged detentions of human rights defenders and activists.

Canada urged India to investigate all acts of sexual violence and to protect freedom of religion by investigating religious violence “including against Muslims.”

Germany said it “remains concerned about the rights of marginalized groups” in India.

Switzerland suggested that India should “ensure open access to social networks and not impose any measure that would slow down or block internet connections”.

Meanwhile, several countries have appreciated India for implementing some of the recommendations shared during the last UPR held in 2017.

The Universal Periodic Review, which is held every four years, is a mechanism for reviewing Member States’ human rights records. Any Member State can ask questions and make recommendations to the State under review.

In response, India said it appreciated the role played by human rights defenders.

“India condemns all forms of torture and maintains an inviolable stand against arbitrary detention, torture, rape or sexual abuse by anyone,” Indian Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the council.