India: police used excessive force against protesters

The Indian government must investigate the use of excessive and unlawful force by Uttar Pradesh police against demonstrators protesting the imposition of a discriminatory new law, the International Commission of Jurists said today in a briefing paper.

The briefing paper, based in part on firsthand interviews with witnesses and victims, documents the unnecessary, excessive and indiscriminate use of force in the state of Uttar Pradesh that have led to more than 19 deaths and several more critical injuries since 11 December 2019 as a result of use of firearms as well as teargas, water cannons, and baton charging by the police in response the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2020.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which restricts right to assembly of more than 4 persons, has been imposed in Uttar Pradesh since December 19, 2019, thereby effectively preventing people from protesting.  However, protests broke out in several cities in Uttar Pradesh despite the ban. While police authorities claim that the protestors initiated the violence, firsthand interviews with victims and witnesses and numerous other credible reports indicate that the police used force on peaceful protestors including lathis, teargas, bullets.

“The high death toll of peaceful protestors in Uttar Pradesh highlights the use of excessive force by the police, in contravention of international standards of policing and human rights. The state and federal governments must investigate any death or injury that occurs during protests by law enforcement officials and to ensure access to justice to victims and their families,” Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General said.

Individuals reported that they had not been able to get their medico-legal certificates and victims’ families reported inability to access postmortem reports.

The right to life and freedom from ill treatment is protected under international law including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party and requires that when arbitrary deprivation of life occurs, there is accountability and reparation for victims.

The Allahabad High Court is hearing Shree Ajay Kumar v. State of Uttar Pradesh starting 16 January 2020, wherein it has taken suo moto cognizance of a letter sent by Ajay Kumar a lawyer in Bombay and has treated it as a basis for the commencement of a public interest litigation. The letter alleges that “the situation in the State of Uttar Pradesh is antithetical to core constitutional values and warrants interference of this Court.”

“A ruling that the Uttar Pradesh police violated protestors right to life by use of firearms and indiscriminate use of batons, teargas will serve as an important reminder to the police and the Indian State to respect the rights to life, freedom from ill-treatment and freedom of assembly and expression of protestors and that the use of such force against peaceful protestors will not be condoned by the State” said Sam Zarifi.

To download the full statement with additional background information, click here.


Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General , e: sam.zarifi(a)

Maitreyi Gupta, International Legal Adviser for India, t: +91 7756028369 ; e: maitreyi.gupta(a)

Read also

ICJ Press Release: India: Discriminatory citizenship law passed by Parliament violates international and constitutional law, December 11, 2019

ICJ Press Release: India: Authorities must cease the excessive use of force and ill-treatment of Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 protestors, December 16, 2019

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