Teesta Setalvad arrest | UN Human Rights chief’s comment unwarranted, says India

The remarks constitute an interference in India’s independent judicial system, says MEA

June 29, 2022 06:19 pm | Updated June 30, 2022 09:55 am IST - New Delhi

Protesters in Mumbai on June 27, 2022 demand the release of activist Teesta Setalvad.

Protesters in Mumbai on June 27, 2022 demand the release of activist Teesta Setalvad. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday said the remarks of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN OHCHR) regarding the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad were "unacceptable". MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi defended the arrest of Ms. Setalvad and said the matter was being conducted in "accordance" with law. The government, however, did not respond to a criticism that came from the office of the Secretary General of the UN following the arrest of journalist and fact checker Mohammed Zubair.

"We have seen a comment by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding legal action against Teesta Setalvad and two other persons. The remarks by the OHCHR are completely unwarranted and constitute an interference in India's independent judicial system," said Mr. Bagchi.

Earlier the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said, "We are very concerned by the arrest and detention of Teesta Setalvad and two ex-police officers and call for their immediate release. They must not be persecuted for their activism and solidarity of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots."

"Authorities in India act against violations of law strictly in accordance with established judicial processes. Labelling such legal actions as persecution for activism is misleading and unacceptable," said Mr. Bagchi in response.

Earlier, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez, had made critical observations following the arrest of Mr. Zubair by the Delhi Police for a 2018 social media post. "Journalists should not be jailed for what they write, what they tweet and what they say," said Mr. Dujarric. The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to that comment.

On June 27, Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, had expressed "deep concern" about the arrest of Ms. Setalvad. That was followed by several international and national human rights groups that reminded India of human rights "obligations" that it is expected to uphold.

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