The Centre for Human Rights, American Bar Association said that the pre-trial detention of Safoora Zargar does not appear to meet the standards of international law, including treaties to which India is a state-party.
The Centre on the custody of Zargar since April 10 commented “International law, including treaties to which India is a State party, only permit pre-trial detention under narrow circumstances which do not appear to have been met in Ms. Zargar’s case. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “it should not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.””
In a case registered under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967(UAPA), Additional Sessions Court, Patiala House at New Delhi had denied bail to the 27-year old Ph.D student of Jamia Milia University, linking her to conspiracy behind the Delhi riots, Last week.
Safoora Zargar’s arrest
Zargar had been in the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 since December 2019, and was arrested first on April 10 for allegedly blocking a road way as part of protests,Centre of Human Rights, ABA, noted. Though a Magistrate granted bail her in that case citing “her pregnancy, health condition, and the directives issued by the Indian Supreme Court on decongestion of prisons during COVID-19”, she was soon re-arrested in the UAPA case, alleging conspiracy behind Delhi riots.
The denial of bail to her in the UAPA case was not in consonance with the provisions of International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights opined the Centre, which hold that pre-trial detention must be only for narrow purposes as to “prevent flight, interference with evidence, or the recurrence of the crime“.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has interpreted the ICCPR to hold that “any detention must be exceptional and of short duration and a release may be accompanied by measures intended only to ensure representation of the defendant in judicial proceedings“.
“Given the lack of evidence in the FIR linking Ms. Zargar to acts of violence, it is unclear why alternatives to pre-trial detention were not considered adequate by the court in this case” the Centre stated.
Particular concerns about the vulnerable state on account of pregnancy, and risk to exposure to COVID-19 in the overcrowded prison were raised by the Centre.
“Regardless of whether Ms. Zargar’s detention was properly justified under normal circumstances, it is likely unreasonable in light of her pregnancy and the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (also known as the Bangkok Rules) concludes that non-custodial means should be preferred for pregnant women during the pre-trial phase wherever that is possible or appropriate“.
Zargar is detained in Tihar Jail which is of overcapacity and that the assistant superintendent of the jail has tested positive for COVID-19 and some inmates have been quarantined. She has polycystic ovary syndrome of which one of the health effects is high blood pressure, stated Zargar’s sister. ABA quoted that High blood pressure patients are one of the populations at greater risk for contracting Covid-19.
“Given the lack of clear evidence of criminal conduct, her pregnant condition, and the failure of prosecutors to specifically explain how Ms. Zargar poses a threat if granted bail, Ms. Zargar should be given the opportunity to furnish a bail bond and be in her home with her family until the appropriate time for her legal hearings. The Centre urges the Court to uphold India’s moral and legal obligations given the pandemic and order the immediate release of Mrs. Zargar“, commented Centre.
The Delhi Commission for Women took suo moto action on a slanderous online campaign launched against Safoora, the Centre noted.
Founded on August 21, 1878 , the American Bar Association, is a voluntary bar association based out of Chicago, USA with over 400000 members and more than 3500 entities of lawyers and law students.
Read the Centre for Human Rights, American Bar Association’s Preliminary Report on ‘The Continued Detention of Student Volunteer Safoora Zargar in New Delhi’