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INDIA: Yet another illegal arrest and disappearance in Manipur

February 22, 2011 : The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Human Rights Alert (HRA) concerning the case of arrest and subsequent disappearance of yet another person in Manipur. A team of military officers, suspected to be from the 12 Maratha Light Infantry, took Mr. Longjam Suresh, the victim in the case into custody from his house on 18 February at about midnight. The officers also arrested his neighbour Manglemba on the same night. Manglemba was later released from custody and left blindfolded in the suburbs of Imphal town, the capital city of Manipur. As for Suresh, his family does not know where he is detained, whether he is alive or for what purpose he is arrested. The local police have thus far refused to register complaints filed by the family. Given the widespread and recurring incidents of extrajudicial executions reported in Manipur, the family fears for the victim’s life and is worried why the state government or the police is unwilling to provide any assistance in the case.

CASE NARRATIVE:

A team of military officers in combat uniform, suspected to be from the 12 Maratha Light Infantry, came to Mr. Longjam Suresh’s house at about ten minutes to midnight on 18 February 2011. It is reported that the officers dragged Suresh out from his house. Hearing the scuffle, Suresh’s father woke up. Mr. Mangi Longjam, when he saw the officers dragging his son out demanded to know who the officers were, their identity, why they are taking his son away by force and to where. The officers refused to answer. They took Suresh to a nearby vehicle parked at the main road. It is reported that a passerby has witnessed Suresh sitting inside the vehicle.

It is reported that the officers soon returned, this time to Suresh’s neighbour, Manglemba’s house. This house is only a few yards away from Suresh’s house. The officers also brought Manglemba out of his house and took him also into the vehicle. Manglemba’s cousin, Ritu, witnessed the incident. Both Ritu and Mangi allege that the officers did not inform why they were taking Suresh and Manglemba into custody, where there are taken to and what is the identity of the officers who executed the arrest. They also claim that both detainees were blindfolded immediately upon arrest.

According to the Criminal Procedure Code of India, 1974, the arresting officers are mandated to inform the person arrested, as well a person of choice as instructed by the arrested person, why the arrest is made, where the person will be detained and when he will be produced before a judicial officer and at what time and place. This information legally referred to, as the ‘arrest memo’, has to be in writing, made in duplicate and a copy of the same – after obtaining the signature of the person to whom the memo is served as instructed by the arrestee – has to be retained by the arresting officer. In this case, as it is the case in almost all cases reported from Manipur, such a memo was neither prepared nor served upon the witnesses to the arrest.

On the next day the families of both victims tried to file a complaint at the Wangoi Police Station informing the police about the arrest and seeking their help to find out where the two persons were detained. But the police refused to register a case on the basis of the complaint. Subsequently, the families filed another complaint to the 12 Maratha Light Infantry stationed at Mayang, Imphal Telecom Complex. The army denied any involvement in the incident. The local people formed a committee to help the relatives in the case. They filed a written complaint to the Chief Minister of Manipur, requesting the minister to order the state police to find out where Suresh and Manglemba were detained.

It is reported that on 20 February, at about midnight, Manglemba was left free near the suburbs of Impahl town at a place called Koirengei. Manglemba claims that he was blindfolded and his hand had been tied when the officers let him go. Manglemba later managed to come back home. Manglemba however had no idea that his neighbour was also arrested on the same day and was in the same vehicle in which he was driven away from his home. This is because both Suresh and Manglemba were blindfolded immediately after the arrest.

Suresh’s family is concerned for his life, as it is common in Manipur for persons arrested in similar circumstances to be found dead after a few days.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The militarisation in Manipur, backed by draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, has led to systematic and widespread human rights abuses perpetrated with impunity by the security forces. Extrajudicial execution and torture accounts for the highest number of cases in this long list. Most of these cases go unreported and those reported not pursued by the state agencies.

The impunity that exists in Manipur in the background of additional violence generated by the active presence of more than two dozen armed secessionist groups has created a culture of enforced silence against human rights violations in Manipur, irrespective of the nature of the perpetrators, state or non-state, involved in each case. While both parties to the conflict have benefited from this state of fear, the state agencies, the police, military and paramilitary units stationed in the state, have plentifully used the culture of impunity to their benefit.

The states of Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir accounts for the highest number of extrajudicial executions, torture and disappearances reported from India. None of these cases have been investigated or resulted in a successful prosecution thus far, despite domestic and international criticism. National institutions like the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court of India and Commissions appointed by the Government of India, all have reiterated this fact and expressed shock and discontentment in the manner in which state institutions like the police, the military and paramilitary units stationed in these two states undertake their operational mandate. In fact, the Government of India and the state administrations of Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir have been directed to enforce discipline within the state police, military and paramilitary units stationed in these two states as an essential precondition for any dialogue for sustainable peace. Unfortunately, the Government of India and the state governments who agree that violence will not bring sustainable peace have thus far done nothing to prevent the violence committed by the law enforcement agencies in these two states.

A pattern observed by the AHRC from the cases reported from Manipur in the past seven years is that, in most cases when the security forces arrest a person, all legal mandates concerning search and arrest are violated. The Supreme Court of India, in the famous D. K. Basu case has issued directives to the law enforcement agencies in the country about the procedures they should follow at the time of arrest and detention. The order of the Court was subsequently incorporated into the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974. However these procedural formalities are daily violated, and cases brought to the notice of the Court as well as to the government. Yet, no action has been initiated in a single incident.

Due to this, often records concerning arrest and detention are not available to the victims or to their family members. The only recourse available to the victim families in such occasions is to approach the local police, like what the family of Suresh has done in this case. But these complaints are never recorded or cases initiated. It is also often observed that in such cases the victims’ are later found shot dead and their bodies disposed off in distant locations. It is also common for the security agencies on such occasions to allege that the deceased was shot dead in an armed encounter or had to be shot when the person tried to escape from custody. In addition, should the victim families try to pursue a complaint against the suspected officers, they are either threatened with more arrests of their family members or intimidated by the state security agencies. This explains why the father of Suresh and the cousin of Manglemba refused to question the army officers who arrested Suresh and Manglemba at the time of their arrest.

The AHRC, like the family of Suresh is afraid that Suresh will also be shot dead by the security forces who now have his custody. It is illegal for the military to detain a civilian in Manipur, and they do not have such an operational mandate. It is the responsibility of the state police to register the complaint Suresh’s family wishes to file with the state police and to initiate an investigation.

 

Source : www.humanrights.asia

 

 

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