US lawyers seek sanctions against Yogi Adityanath for killings

Washington, February 23 (KMS): The United States government has been called on to order sanctions against Adityanath by a group of international criminal and human rights lawyers.

In a submission they filed with the Department of State and the US Department of the Treasury, they sought targeted sanctions against the Uttar Pradesh chief minister for his role in extra judicial killings committed by the state’s police forces between 2017 and 2021.

The lawyers also recommends sanctions against Om Prakash Singh, the recently retired Director-General of the Police of UP, and Sanjeev Tyagi, Superintendent of the Police of the district of Kanpur.

The submission comes at a time when the state of Uttar Pradesh is in the midst of legislative assembly elections and Adityanath is running for a second term in office.

Toby Cadman, one of the lawyers, was quoted as saying, “The submission presents credible sources that show how the UP police carried out at least 146 extra-judicial killings in a pattern of so-called “encounters” since Yogi Adityanath came into power in 2017 and declared a “zero tolerance policy” against crimes.”

Claiming evidence against the three individuals who were in a position of command and control at the time the state police undertook the killings, he said, “They failed to prevent or punish, and that there are statements and orders which would suggest that a direct link the crimes as alleged.”

Cadman is an Associate Counsel at the Guernica 37 Centre, the organisation which filed the submission.

He further said, “These ‘encounters’ are staged confrontations between the police and alleged criminals where the suspects eventually are shot dead in what the police claim is an act of self-defence. However, in many of these cases, witness testimonies, autopsy reports, and other evidence demonstrate that the victims were in fact executed.”

Since Adityanath also holds the position of home minister of the state the state police are directly under his command and control.

US’s Global Magnitsky sanctions allows the US Department of Treasury to sanction individuals responsible for, complicit in or engaged with, “serious human rights abuse” generally understood to include extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, or enforced disappearances.

Once a person is thus sanctioned, any property owned by them in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons is “blocked and must be reported to” the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It also prevents any person or entity in the United States from undertaking any financial transactions with these men. Sanctions could also involve a ban on travel to the US.

The South Asia director of Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly was quoted by The Wire saying, “Indian authorities have failed to act properly against custodial torture, deaths and extrajudicial killings, creating culture of impunity.” “Lack of effective domestic accountability mechanisms serve as a reason for foreign governments to consider targeted sanctions.”

In January 2019, UN human rights experts raised an alarm over 59 extrajudicial killings by police in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017 through a letter to the government of India.

“We are extremely concerned about the pattern of events: individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture,” the UN experts stated at the time.

In the letter, the UN experts also highlighted their concern over statements issued by high ranking state government and police officials seeming to incite, justify or sanction killings.

It can be recalled here that a few months after coming to power, the incumbent chief minister of UP had said during a TV interview that his police won’t hesitate to ‘knock down’ the criminals if they did not mend their ways. The state government kept on publicising the encountering killings in the state as a ‘zero tolerance policy’ of the state government towards crime and for maintenance of law and order.

In November 2021, the report of a committee led by a former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Madan B. Lokur, criticised the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other oversight bodies for their investigation into 17 alleged “encounter” killings that had taken place four years earlier. Justice Lokur wrote in the report, “Wanton killings through such unconstitutional activity are unfortunately being given a veneer of respectability through the expression ‘instant justice,’ even though in most cases it is nothing but cold-­blooded murder.”

The Guernica 37 Centre, which is based in the United States, is part of the Guernica 37 Group, a specialist group of international criminal and human rights lawyers who work with victims and their communities to secure accountability for violations they have experienced.

The Guernica submission concerning extra judicial killings in Uttar Pradesh states: “Being the Chief Minister and Home Minister, Yogi Adityanath has the final executive authority in the state of UP over the police. Despite this, he failed to prevent the police under his command from committing serious human rights violations nor did he take measures to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators. On the contrary, he condoned such behaviour and rewarded police officers for their transgressions.”

On Om Prakash Singh, who was the Director General of the Police in Uttar Pradesh from January 2018 to January 31, 2020, it states that “he had overall command over the police force in UP but failed to take action against the serious human rights abuses committed by the forces under his command.”

On Sanjeev Tyagi, who had been the Superintendent of the Police of Kanpur district since March 2021 but was prior to that the Superintendent of the Police in Bijnor District from January 2019 onwards, Guernica 37 Centre stated, “He had direct command over police officers who committed serious human rights abuses against [Citizenship Amendment Act] opponents, including the killing of two victims.”

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