India court convicts 23 for crimes during Gujarat riots

India court convicts 23 for crimes during Gujarat riots

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[JURIST] A trial court in the West Indian state of Gujarat [official website] on Monday convicted 23 people of crimes committed during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The riots stemmed from anger over the death of 60 Hindus in a fire aboard a train. As a result of the casualties, riots broke out targeting Muslims who were blamed for starting the fire. The individuals were convicted on charges of murder, conspiracy, rioting, unlawful assembly, attempted murder and destruction of evidence for participating in the killing of 23 Muslims [AFP report], 18 of which were women, in the riots that left more then 2,000 dead. An additional 23 individuals were acquitted for lack of evidence. This specific massacre became known as the “Ode massacre” for taking place in the village of Ode where Muslim families were locked in homes that were subsequently set on fire. The Ode massacre is the third out of 10 incidents [BBC report] that took place during the riots and investigated by an independent Special Investigating Team. Sentencing of the convicted is expected to occur later Monday.

Last November, a court convicted 31 people [JURIST report] for crimes committed during the Gujarat riots and sentenced them to life in prison and a requirement to pay a fine. In 2009, the National Human Rights Commission [official website] filed a case with the Supreme Court in which it took issue [press release] with the lack of prosecution in the case. The Supreme Court [official website] ordered an investigation into the conduct of the trial as well as the protection of witnesses. In 2004, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a report [finding, PDF] urging witness protection for those involved in the case after allegations [JURIST report] of threats and pressure from the state arose.