In the first government response on the death of 84-year-old Stan Swamy, the External Affairs Ministry said on Tuesday that action is taken against "violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights" in India.
Taken aback by the fury over the death of India’s oldest political prisoner and the sharp criticism from national and international organisations, including the United Nations Human Rights Watch, the ministry spokesperson said, "Father Stan Swamy was arrested and detained by the National Investigation Agency following due process under law. Because of the specific nature of charges against him, his bail applications were rejected by the courts’’.
The MEA also explained that Swamy was receiving all possible medical attention in a private hospital on the directions of the court and he died because of medical complications. It further said that India remains committed to promote and protect human rights of all its citizens.
The spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell on Tuesday asked the Indian government to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association. The statement also said, “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death’’.
The UN body said that in light of the continued severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that all nations, including India, release every person detained without a sufficient legal basis, including those detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views. This would be in line with the Indian judiciary’s call to decongest the prisons.\
The statement issued from Geneva pointed out that Father Stan had been held in pre-trial detention, without bail since his arrest, charged with terrorism-related offences in relation to demonstrations that date back to 2018. “He was a long-standing activist, particularly on the rights of indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups.’’