Solidarity Statement for human rights defender Teesta Setalvad
We, civil society organisations from across Asia and the Pacific, call on the government of India to drop all charges against Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand which are attempts to intimidate them for their lawful work as human rights defenders. We implore the government of India to guarantee fair conditions for all human rights defenders and civil society organisations in India to work free of persecution and intentional constraints.
Teesta Setalvad, who is a celebrated human rights defender, established Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in 1992 to seek justice and support peace building for victims of violence in India. She is at risk of being arrested at her bail hearing on 10 August 2015 for allegedly accepting illegal foreign donations through CJP. Setalvad and her supporters believe she is being targeted for demanding justice for the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat which resulted in the deaths of over 1044 people and the rape of a significant number of women and girls. Setalvad’s work has been critical for access to justice in India; she has helped to secure over 254 convictions and prosecute government officials for their passive involvement. Setalvad’s work is a triumph in a system where witnesses are intimidated, culprits are rarely convicted and cases drag on until resources are drained.
On 29 June 2015, the Sessions Court refused Setalvad travel privileges to Brazil where she was invited to an international seminar. On 8 July, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case alleging that Setalvad and her husband received 18 million INR from the Ford Foundation without prior government approval thus violating India’s Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FRCA). Despite the fact that Setalvad’s publishing house has a consultancy contract with the Ford Foundation which legally excludes it from the FRCA limitations; the charges have not been dropped. It is therefore clear that the charges are intended to intimidate Setalvad into ceasing her work of demanding justice from the Indian government.
Civil Society throughout the region condemns these acts of persecution and intimidation against Setalvad. By persecuting Setalvad, the Government of India is sending a warning to all who speak out against human rights violations. We view the Government’s actions as an attempt to weaken civil society and prevent human rights defenders from carrying out their lawful work of protecting victims of violence in India.
We commend Setalvad’s significant contribution to access to justice in India and stand in solidarity with her. We call upon the Government of India to immediately drop all charges against Setalvad and her husband. Further, we demand that the Government take actions to support an environment that promotes the protection of human rights and prevention of violence in India.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
National Fisheries Solidarity Movement
Research and Advocacy for Women Network
Women and Children Crisis Centre Tonga
Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre – Fiji Islands
S K Priya
A&A Book Trust
Manisha Gupte, india
Welfare Association for Development Alternative (WADA)