Washington, D.C. – On June 12, 2020, Freedom Now and Dechert LLP filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on behalf of Indian academic and human rights activist G.N. Saibaba. Freedom Now and Dechert LLP argue that India’s detention of Saibaba violates the government’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The wrongful detention of G.N. Saibaba is yet another instance of the Indian government abusing anti-terrorism laws to criminalize peaceful activism,” said Freedom Now Legal Officer Adam Lhedmat. “We are confident that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will conclude Saibaba’s fundamental human rights have been violated, primarily his right to freedom of expression. Freedom Now calls on the Indian government to abide by its international commitments and immediately release Saibaba.”
G.N. Saibaba is former professor of English Literature at Delhi University. At the time of his incarceration, he was the Deputy Secretary of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, a federation comprised of workers, peasants, youth, students, women, and cultural groups. In this position, Saibaba regularly spoke out about human rights abuses against indigenous Adivasi people in the mineral rich belt of central India. He also mobilized communities against a major military offensive that the Indian government initiated in 2009 against the Adivasi that continues today.
Saibaba was arrested on May 9, 2014 during a police raid on his home and charged with terrorism-related crimes under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The government accused him of collaborating with banned Maoist insurgent groups.
The Supreme Court granted Saibaba bail in April 2016, citing his serious medical condition. He contracted polio as a child and was left 90 percent handicapped due to post-polio paralysis. His medical condition worsened in detention and he has had to undergo surgery.
The following year, in March 2017, Saibaba was convicted of the charges against them and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction occurred despite several irregularities in the trial, including key witnesses recanting their testimonies.