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Global Sikh assemblages protest Jagtar Singh Tara’s extradition [Special Report]

February 11, 2015 | By

Washington DC/ Los Angeles/ New York/ Chicago (February 9, 2015): To internationalize the illegal extradition and on-going torture on ex-CM Beant’s assassin Jagtar Singh Tara, Sikhs across United States and Canada held assemblages at Thai Embassies on Feb 9.

While hundreds of Sikhs rallied in solidarity with Tara carrying placards terming Beant’s assassin’s as “Sikh Nationalist”, rights group delegations submitted “demand letter” to Thai officials in Washington DC, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Ottawa.

Global Assemblages Submit Demand Letter:
Addressed to Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Sikh human rights “demand letter” citing continuous torture on Tara, urges the reversal of Jan 16 extradition order.

Sikhs protested outside Thai Consulate in New York, USA

Sikhs protested outside Thai Consulate in New York, USA

Urging Thailand to demand Tara’s custody from India, right group’s demand letter argues that “Tara was extradited in violation of “political offense” exception of Thai Extradition Act B.E. 2551 (2008) and protection provided under UN Convention Against Torture”. Comparing Sikh nationalist movement with South Africa Anti-apartheid struggle, demand letter states that “the actions taken by Tara in furtherance of Sikh nationalist movement were just as “political” and “legitimate resistance” to Indian oppression as those of Nelson Mandela”.

Article 3 of the Model Treaty on Extradition passed by United Nation General Assembly through resolution RES/45/116, provides that extradition request must be denied in the cases of (a) political offense; (b) possibility of torture; (c) extradition has been requested for prosecuting or punishing a person on account of his religion or political opinions; or (d) if the person extradited will not be given a fair trial.

“Since Tara is being tortured and framed in false criminal cases to suppress the “Sikh Nationalist” movement of which Tara is an icon, we apprised the Thai authorities about ongoing violation of the terms of Tara’s extradition” stated attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ. “Under international law, a receiving country cannot violate the terms of extradition”.

In a coordinated effort, at the call of “Sikhs For Justice” (SFJ) solidarity rallies were held in Australia, England, Germany, France, Holland, Italy and Switzerland.

Ms. Arjaree Sriratanaban, Minister-Counsellor at Thai Embassy Washington DC:
A delegation of rights group SFJ and members of Sikh community submitted the demand letter to Minister-Counsellor, Ms. Sriratanaban who assured the representatives that concerns about torture on Tara will be addressed with the Thai Prime Minister.

Sikh Delegation Led by Sikh Scholar Dr. Amarjit Singh Met with Arjaree Sriratanaban Minister Consular at Thai Embassy in Washington DC

Sikh Delegation Led by Sikh Scholar Dr. Amarjit Singh Met with Arjaree Sriratanaban Minister Consular at Thai Embassy in Washington DC

Across North America Sikh delegations were received by Consular Sunh Arunrugstichai in Los Angeles; Consular Woraporn in Chicago; Assistant to Thai Consul General in New York and Mr. Adisak Jantatum First Secretary at Thai Embassy in Ottawa and assured that Sikh community’s concerns about on-going Torture on Tara will be conveyed to Prime Minister’s Office in Bangkok.

Jagtar Singh Tara’s Extradition Violated UN Convention Against Torture:
Tara’s extradition to India is in violation of UN Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Degrading and other Inhuman Treatment. Article 3 of the Torture Convention provides that “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”.

Although India is not party to the Torture Convention, however, in October 2007, Thailand ratified the Torture Convention.

Thai Human Rights Activist Raise Concern on Tara’s Extradition:
Danthong Breen, a Thai human rights activist and Senior Advisor and director of Death Penalty Project of “Union for Civil Liberty” (UCL) stated that, “ignoring the strong possibility of torture and death penalty to Tara, his extradited to India will run counter to Thailand’s obligation under Convention Against Torture”. “As a member of the Human Rights Council and signatory of Torture Convention, it should be unacceptable for Thailand to allow extradition of Sikh nationalist “.

India Thwarted Due Process In Tara’s Extradition Proceedings:
SFJ who hired veteran Thai attorney Worasit Piriyawiboon to represent Tara claimed that Indian officials in Bangkok thwarted due process during extradition proceedings. When Interpol along with Thai Police arrested Tara, he asked for legal representation, however, Arvind Kumar and Praveen Kumar, officials from the Indian Consulate in Bangkok misled him into signing the documents resulting in the January 6 extradition order. Arvind Kumar is working as Counsellor (Personnel) while Praveen Kumar, is Attaché (Commerce) at the Embassy of India in Bangkok.

Sikhs meet Thai authorities in Delhi

Sikhs meet Thai authorities in Delhi

Beant ‘s Assassin Tara Facing Torture:
In 2014, Human Rights Watch noted that “the sad fact is that police forces across both Southeast and South Asia, as well as East Asia, consistently use torture as a standard part of their interrogation techniques in order to extract confessions”. []

In the case of Tara, the possibility of torture and death penalty is definite. Immediately after January 06 Extradition Order against Tara, India’s Inspector General Prisons, AS Cheema, stated in media that “upon his return Tara will be held in solitary confinement” and “investigated by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Satbir Singh”. DSP Satbir is notorious for torturing and killing Sikh activists in fake encounters during the 1990s.

“Sikh Nationalist” Not Terrorist:
While being questioned by Interpol in Bangkok for his role in 1995 bombing, Jagtar Singh Tara stated that “Sikhs never initiate cycle of violence. It is India who started Genocide of Sikhs in June 1984”. “Beant was responsible for killing of thousands of innocent Sikhs and finally fell prey to his own vicious game which he was heading as Chief Minister”.

Sikhs protested outside Thai Consulate against extradition of Jagtar Singh Tara

Sikhs protested outside Thai Consulate against extradition of Jagtar Singh Tara

“History is a witness that Sikhs are always peaceful until they are attacked. I am a Sikh nationalist not a terrorist”.

Tara has been charged with the August 1995 assassination of Beant Singh the then Chief Minister of Punjab who was infamous for launching fierce police operations in Punjab to suppress the Sikh nationalist movement. During Beant’s tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab from February 1992 August 1995, over 100,000 Sikhs were tortured, disappeared and extra judicially killed in “fake encounters”.

Tara who was incarcerated for several years fled high security prison in Chandigarh by digging a 160 feet tunnel in 2004. Jagtar Singh Tara was convicted in absentia by an Indian court along with his co-accused in 2007.

During Tara’s detention in Bangkok, SFJ unsuccessfully tried to block Trara’s extradition by retaining a team of top Thai lawyers and by enlisting the help of Thai human rights activists.

History of Torture on Sikh Nationalists In India:
India sees the threats posed by centrifugal forces as so dangerous that it is willing to take severest action to quash any potential nationalist or separatist movements. International human rights groups have all criticized the ubiquitous use of torture, forced disappearances and extra judicial killings by police and security forces in India.

I support Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara | This old man reportedly travelled 100s of miles to participate in protest outside Royal Thai Consulate at  Los Angeles (California)

I support Bhai Jagtar Singh Tara | This old man reportedly travelled 100s of miles to participate in protest outside Royal Thai Consulate at Los Angeles (California)

What lies at the bottom of the controversy between the disgruntled Sikhs and India is the Explanation II to Article 25 of the constitution of India which labels Sikhs as Hindus. Offended by this constitutional assault on independent status of Sikhism and amalgamation of Sikh identity, the Sikh nationalist movement which initially demanded the amendment to Article 25 ultimately culminated in the demand for an independent Sikh state after military operation against the holiest Sikhs shrine the Golden Temple in June 1984.

In India, torture on Sikh detainees has been a dynamic and living reality since the years following the military action against Golden Temple. Indian Government regards Sikhs’ demand for “right to self determination” as a “crime against the State” and Sikh political activists demanding or supporting right to self determination are consistently labeled as “militants”, “terrorists”, “separatists” and “anti-state” and are tortured, mistreated, denied due process and sent to gallows.

India’s treatment of detainees and particularly Sikh detainees who are viewed and labeled as “militants” and “terrorists” is well documented by HRW, Amnesty and other international NGOs.

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