Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked Indian authorities Wednesday to free all detained Myanmar asylum seekers immediately. The organization also urged the authorities to investigate the deaths of two women who had escaped from Myanmar and died in state custody in June from COVID-19.
HRW South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said that asylum seekers from Myanmar should be offered a “safe haven” in India and not be subjected to detention and deprivation of their rights. She added that the government of India needs to uphold its international legal obligations and work closely with the UN refugee agency in order to protect the interest of all stakeholders, especially those suffering.
The group pointed out the violence and oppression caused by the junta, which imposed 65 death sentences in February to repress the nationwide anti-coup movement and stifle the voices of dissent. It further outlined the killings and arbitrary detentions of activists, journalists, civil servants and politicians by the military junta in the following months. Against this backdrop, the group questioned the uncertain stand of the Indian government after condemning the military violence in Myanmar and committing to a democratic transition while requesting for the release of detained leaders at the UN Security Council.
HRW alleged that the Indian government was in violation of customary international principle of nonrefoulement by continuously seeking to return ethnic Rohingya to Myanmar despite the politically unstable regime and serious allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide by the junta.
The group also cited the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to reject a plea to stop the deportation of Rohingya Muslims from the country and alleged that India’s failure to adhere to fair asylum procedures is in violation of the government’s international legal obligations.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to ensure that the Indian government meets its obligations under international refugee law. Indian authorities should treat those from Myanmar seeking refuge in India with dignity and provide them protection from further abuse.” stated Ganguly.