Immediately and Unconditionally Release and Drop All Charges Against Irom Sharmila

India’s famous human rights activist Irom Sharmila, who is campaigning against draconian law Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), has been rearrested in Imphal just two days after her release. She’s been fighting since 2000 against AFSPA, which was misused by armed personnel for exploiting and mistreating civilians. Reproduced below is a release from Front Line Defenders in this regard. – Editor

India – Human rights defender Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila re-arrested

Human rights defender Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila, campaigner against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was arrested in Imphal on 22 August, 2014, on charges of attempted suicide. Two days before her new arrest, on 20 August, Irom Chanu Sharmila had been released from judicial custody on after her most recent one year’s imprisonment following a court ruling that she could not be charged with attempted suicide for refusing food and water.

Irom Chanu Sharmila was arrested in relation to the continuation of her hunger strike. She has been charged with “attempting to commit suicide” under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which carries a sentence of “simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year” and/or a fine.

The human rights defender has previously been arrested on the same charge every year since the beginning her hunger strike on 2 November 2000. Every year authorities release her from custody, usually for several hours, and then detain her again making sure that she is not going to finish her starvation. For already fourteen years the authorities forcibly feed the human rights defender holding her at the prison hospital.

Irom Chanu Sharmila has been on hunger strike since 2 November 2000 in protest against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) which gives power to officers of the Indian Armed Forces to shoot anyone suspected of being an insurgent in so-called “disturbed areas”. Further, AFSPA grants special powers to the armed forces, including those to detain, use lethal force and enter and search premises without warrant.

The Act also stipulates that the central government must give its permission to prosecute any officer of the armed forces, which in effect has granted them almost complete impunity. Irom Chanu Sharmila began her hunger strike on the same day that the Indian Armed Force, known as the Assam Rifles, killed ten innocent people in Malom, Manipur. At the time, the army refused to initiate an inquiry into the massacre claiming that the officers had acted with the authority given to them under AFSPA.

On 22 August 2014, she was arrested outside a government-run hospital in Imphal where she was continuing her fast. Police officers surrounded the human rights defender and, when she resisted, the forcibly picked her up and put her in a police jeep. Irom Chanu Sharmila has vowed to continue her hunger strike until AFSPA is repealed, promising neither to return to her home nor to meet her mother during her hunger strike.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release, and drop all charges against, Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila as it is believed that she is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
  2. Ensure that the treatment of Irom Chanu Sharmila, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment’, adopted by the UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
  3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

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