A United Nations-affiliated group Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has concluded that the arrest of Delhi anti-Hindu riots accused Safoora Zargar in February 2020 was arbitrary in nature. The group demanded that she should be provided compensation and other reparations by the Government.
WGAD, which operates under the office of the United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights, released its findings in Geneva on March 12. In its report, the group claimed that Zargar’s detention was arbitrary, and it went against both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It claimed that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be “to accord Zargar an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.” The group further added that the Government of India should take steps to “remedy the situation of Ms Zargar without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms”, including those of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenant.
The group in its report [PDF] alleged that she was ‘targetted’ by the Government for having anti-government views on Citizen (Amendment) Act 2019. As the Government of India did not reply to its allegations, the group referred her case to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism for further action.
Arrest of Safoora Zargar
Zargar, a student activist and MPhil student of Jamia Millia Islamia, was arrested in April 2020 for her alleged role in instigating violence in northeast Delhi, in which 53 people died, and 400 others were injured. She claimed that she was only part of the protests but denied the allegations made by the police. Her bail applications were rejected several times based on the fact that she was charged under serious sections.
When her lawyers filed a bail application claiming she should be released as she was pregnant, the police replied that around 39 deliveries took place in jail in the last decade, and it cannot be the group for granting bail. She was later granted bail in June 2020 on Humanitarian grounds. The court asked her not to leave Delhi without the court’s permission and to remain in touch with the investigating officer once every 15 days via phone.
Safoora Zargar and the victim card
Zargar has been playing victimhood since she came out on bail. In a recent interview with The Quint, she said, “The most difficult part of it was the isolation, the confinement. I was held in a separate cell… When I was taken to jail, I was kept in a separate ward, in a fag end of the jail that had huge walls and barbed wires…It was very scary…I thought this is the end.” She also claimed that she feared miscarriage and made up her mind for the worse.
One may fall for the victim card she had played, followed by the one-sided decision made by the non-judicial group under UNHC, but her alleged role in the riots cannot be denied. Several videos had surfaced in which she was seen giving provocative speeches during Anti-CAA protests. Furthermore, she was named in Chargesheet number 59 that indicated a larger conspiracy behind the riots and had named the likes of Zargar and Umar Khalid as co-conspirators.
In the charge sheet, the police named her for allegedly instigated a Muslim mob near Chand Bagh area that attacked Delhi police personnel leading to the death of police constable Ratan Lal.
WGAD was recently slammed by the Ministry of External Affairs
In February 2021, WGAD had demanded that the Indian Government should release the VVIP chopper AgustaWestland scam accused Christian Michel with immediate effect. Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson Ministry of External Affairs, slammed the group for its decision and said that the demands made by the group were based on “limited information, biased allegations from an unidentified source and on an inaccurate understanding of India’s criminal justice system.”
MEA further said that the Working Group is not a judicial body, and therefore, its opinions are not legally binding on the Member States. “The Working Group should be aware that India has robust grievance redressal mechanisms against allegations of violations of human rights in a vibrant and independent judiciary and a ‘category A’ National Human Rights Commission compliant with the Paris Principles,” MEA added.
Rejecting the opinion, MEA added, “The allegations which form the basis of the opinion rendered by the Working Group are contrary to facts. The Government of India, therefore, rejects the opinion rendered by the Working Group.”