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Jailed to die? India’s incarcerated human rights defenders and the Covid emergency

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USA: 9:30am EDT / 8:30am CDT / 6:30am PDT
UK: 2:30pm BST / Europe: 3:30pm CEST / India: 7pm IST

India accounts for almost a third of deaths from Covid-19 worldwide. The spread of the pandemic in India’s prisons remains a cause for grave concern, with the incarcerated becoming particularly exposed to infection, and developing other serious health issues owing to prison over-crowding, absence of appropriate medical care, and deplorable hygiene conditions.

The temporary administrative order to release prisoners due to the pandemic or place them under house arrest is shockingly not applicable to political prisoners in India. By turning a blind eye to the compounded risks the pandemic adds to an already cruel prison system, the government is in violation of its constitutional duty to safeguard the life of these citizens.

This event brings together testimonies from family members of the BK-16 and human rights and legal experts to raise international public awareness on how the courts and prisons have become complicit in denying not only those in prison but also their family members their basic rights protected by India’s constitution. This is a concerted public appeal for the appropriate implementation of the temporary administrative order. When the prison is unable to provide for the health and safety of the prisoners, the family has a right to offer such care as they deem necessary. The prisoners have a constitutional right to live and die in dignity.

Aakar Patel, Director, Amnesty International India and columnist
Shahrukh Alam, Lawyer, Supreme Court of India
Koel Sen, Filmmaker and artist, daughter of Shoma Sen
Jenny Rowena, Lecturer, Delhi University, wife of Hany Babu
Prachi Teltumbde, Daughter of Anand Teltumbde
Father Joseph Xavier, Associate of Stan Swamy, Bangalore


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Indian Civil Watch International (ICWI) is a non-sectarian left diasporic membership-based organization that represents the diversity of India’s people and anchors a transnational network to building radical democracy in India.