India Refuses Visa to Amnesty International Official
By Baiju Kalesh
Times News Network
July 24, 2003

MUMBAI: In an unprecedented move, the government of India has denied an entry visa to Irene Khan Zubeida, the secretary general of the UK-based human rights group Amnesty International.

The Bangladesh-born Ms Zubeida, who took charge in 2001, had planned her first visit to the sub-continent from July 9 this year.

Sources said that Ms Zubeida's visa application had been rejected by the Indian high commissioner's office in London without mentioning a specific reason.

The refusal of a visa to the chief of the world-renowned human rights body comes close on the heels of the organisation mobilising its members from around the world to call on the government of India to carry out a re-trial of the Best Bakery case and commence other trials in riot cases in Gujarat last year.

Amnesty International has been critical of the Indian government's record on human rights violations, the denial of justice to women with reference to the Gujarat riots as well as the rehabilitation of tribals affected by the Narmada dam.

Officials in Delhi's Amnesty India office confirmed to TNN that a visa been denied to their secretary general, who was supposed to be on an official visit to its India office. "We are making a public statement regarding this development," a senior official of the organisation said. Vijay Nagaraj, India co-ordinator of Amnesty India, however, refused to comment the issue.

In its report published in February this year, the international body criticised the role of the government the Gujarat riots. It said, "the constitutional rights and in particular the right to redress continued to be violated the state."

The manner in which the police investigated the massacres highlighted a severe bias against Muslims and survivors, the report said.

"At the time of the violence in Gujarat, India dismissed international expressions concern as 'interference,' arguing India's criminal justice system and other institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission, would able adequately to address the situation in Gujarat."

"Those statements today appear hollow," Amnesty had said in its latest report in July.

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