Statement of BHRPC on Police Harassment of Its Member
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Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC), a reputed organisation monitoring and documenting human rights abuse in North East India, expresses its deep concern regarding the incident of police harassment of its member Waliullah Ahmed Laskar in Guwahati, Assam on 4 December 2008. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar is the Liaison Officer and a member of the legal team of the BHRPC.
On 4 December 2008, at approximately 8:00 pm, Waliullah Ahmed Laskar was in an internet cafe in Guwahati when a group of armed police officers from Dispur Police Station, led by the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), entered the café and approached him. The DSP demanded that Waliullah Ahmed Laskar show him what he was downloading, which he did. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar was then held in a police Jeep for 30 minutes while the DSP examined the computer he was using. The DSP and police officers then searched Waliullah Ahmed Laskar´s room and confiscated all of his belongings pertaining to the BHRPC which included documents, his brief cases, laptop, USB flash drive and mobile phone without following legal procedure.
Waliullah Ahmed Laskar was subsequently taken to Dispur Police Station where he was questioned by an officer from Special Branch of Assam Police and a team from the Subsidiary Investigating Bureau and the Intelligence Bureau of the Central Government of India until approximately 2:00am on 5 December 2008. Waliullah Ahmed Laskar was subsequently kept in detention while the police informed him that “experts” from outside of Assam were checking the items which had been confiscated doing away with his presence or that of any independent witnesses. At 9:00pm of 5 December 2008 his items were returned to him and he was released without charge.
Prior to his detention and interrogation Waliullah Ahmed Laskar had been assigned by the BHRPC to prepare a draft Project Proposal on “The Right to Freedom from Torture and Violence: Compatibility of Indian Law and Practice with International Human Rights Standards (focusing on the North East Indian situation)”. As a member of BHRPC he also participates in the ongoing policy making deliberations of the organization. For these reasons Waliullah Ahmed Laskar had been using the internet as his primary source of information concerning violence, torture, terrorism, counter terrorism, policing, human rights etc. The Dispur police informed Waliullah Ahmed Laskar that the basis of his interrogation was his research of information on these topics by internet.
BHRPC believes that the harassment of Waliullah Ahmed Laskar is directly related to his legitimate and peaceful activities in defense of human rights, in particular his research concerning human rights abuses in North East India. We, at BHRPC, are deeply concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Waliullah Ahmed Laskar and all members of BHRPC and their families. We feel insecure and scared.
We urge the authorities to:
1. Initiate an immediate, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the reports of police harassment against BHRPC member Waliullah Ahmed Laskar;
2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and integrity of Waliullah Ahmed Laskar and all members of Barak Human Rights Protection Committee and their families;
3. Guarantee that human rights defenders in Assam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including police harassment.
(Neharul Ahmed Mazumder)