‘Saddened’ by Father Stan Swamy’s death: U.S.

People holding a banner outside a Mumbai church.  

The Biden administration reacted to the death of Father Stan Swamy in custody in India and called on all governments to respect the role of human rights activists.

“We are saddened by the death of Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest & tribal rights activist, who died in Indian custody under charges of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. We call on all governments to respect the vital role of human rights activists in healthy democracies,” a tweet from the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom said on Wednesday.

The U.S. government’s statement is particularly significant as the Biden administration has continued to foster closer ties between India and the US, with both sides of the aisle in Washington seeing a strongly democratic India not just as a good thing in itself but also as a bulwark against authoritarian China.

Addressing the G7 leaders in Cornwall virtually last month, Prime Minister Modi had said that India was a “natural ally” of the G7 in fighting authoritarianism.

Also read: Fr. Stan Swamy was jailed on false charges, says top U.N. official

Just over an hour before the State Department’s tweet, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) tweeted a statement, condemning the death of the priest.

“USCIRF condemns in the strongest terms the deliberate neglect and targeting by the government of India that led to the death of Father #StanSwamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest and longtime human rights defender,” it said.

In its statement, the commission called on the U.S. government to hold the Government of India accountable and raise concerns around religious freedom in the India-U.S. bilateral relationship. The USCIRF is a bipartisan independent Congressionally mandated commission whose role includes making non-binding recommendations to the State Department on the classification of countries according to an assessment of religious freedom.

In April, the USCIRF had recommended to the administration , for the second year in a row, that India be categorized as a “country of particular concern” or CPC (those countries with the worst religious freedom records). India is not on the Secretary of State’s current CPC list.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 7:05:27 AM |

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