‘Part of pattern’: US panel slams release of convicts in Bilkis Bano rape case

New Delhi, August 20 (KMS): The US Commission of International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has strongly condemned the unjustified early release of 11 Hindutva men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case.

According to Kashmir Media Service, they were sentenced to life for raping a pregnant Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, and murdering her five-year-old daughter and others relatives during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the Indian state of Gujarat.

The USCIRF Vice Chair, Abraham Cooper, in a statement said, “USCIRF strongly condemns the early and unjustified release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims during the 2002 Gujarat riots.”

Calling the early release of the convicts a “travesty of justice”, USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck said that it was part of a “pattern of impunity” for those involved in the violence against religious minorities.

“The failure to hold accountable perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat Riots who committed physical & sexual violence is a travesty of justice. It’s part of a pattern of impunity in India for those engaged in violence against religious minorities,” Schneck said.

The BJP-led Gujarat government has been facing ire for approving the early release of the convicts under its old 1992 remission policy, a report by Hindustan Times said.

The report added thousands of grassroots workers and women and human rights activists have urged the Supreme Court to revoke the remission, saying the release will have a “chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to ‘trust the system’, ‘seek justice’, and ‘have faith’.”

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