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International Alliance for the Defense of Human Rights in India (IADHRI)*

December 2, 2011: IADHRI strongly condemns the custodial torture of Soni Sori and demands immediate prosecution of the culpable officials. The recently received medical report of Soni Sori, a Chattisgarh school-teacher, has revealed that two large stones were planted deep inside her vagina and another stone inside her rectum. On October 20th, 2011, the Supreme Court had ordered the government of Chhattisgarh to send Sori to NRS Medical College in the neighboring state of West Bengal for an independent medical examination, based on credible reports of her torture and sexual abuse by the Chhattisgarh police [1].
Evidence of spinal injuries have also been found in the medical reports. These findings conclusively point to the fact that Sori was tortured while she was in the custody of the Chhattisgarh police.

The facts in the medical report are also consistent with a new letter from Soni Sori [2], now filed with the Supreme Court, where she has described the torture she endured under the direct supervision of the Superintendent of Police (SP), Ankit Garg. She also communicated gruesome details of her prison torture to a relative and a friend who visited her in jail, who then conveyed the information to people in New Delhi assisting her with the case [3].
The medical report, then, corroborates Sori’s allegations of intense sexual abuse and torture by the Chhattisgarh police.

In accordance with the 113th report of the Law Commission of India that suggested modifications to the India Evidence Act 1872, any injury sustained by a person in police custody can be presumed to be caused by the police unless proven otherwise. As evidenced by independent medical examination reports and Sori’s letters, the case meets the criteria for the presumption that specifically SP Ankit Garg and the police force under his command are responsible for her injuries.

We thus demand that
·
All politically motivated charges against Soni Sori be dropped and that she be released immediately.
An independent investigation be launched against those who tortured Soni Sori and implicated her on false charges; and that the police officials involved in torture, particularly SP Ankit Garg be suspended immediately, pending this inquiry.
Harassment and intimidation of Soni Sori’s relatives cease immediately.

Background on Soni Sori
Soni Sori is the aunt of Lingaram Kodopi, a young journalist who was arrested on September 9th 2011, on charges of collecting money for the Maoists. Her three young children, aged 6, 10 and 12 years, are now in the care of her brother, Ramdev, since her husband has been imprisoned in Chhattisgarh on false charges. Sori fled the state fearing for her life and reached New Delhi seeking legal assistance. She was arrested on October 4th by the Delhi police acting under the directions of the Chhattisgarh police. The police allege that Sori is involved as a conduit for money transfer to the Maoists from the Essar group; a charge openly denied by Essar [21]. She has also been falsely charged under several other cases of aiding the Maoists. An examination of publicly available materials demonstrate that the charges against both Sori and Kodopi are false and politically motivated [4,5,6,7]. Amnesty International has declared both Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi prisoners of conscience and has demanded that the charges against them be dropped and that they be freed unconditionally [8. See also 9.].
In response to petitions filed in courts in Delhi, a judge ordered the Chhattisgarh police on October 7th 2011 to take all measures to ensure Soni Sori’s safety in transit. Produced before a court in Dantewada the next day, a Saturday, a judge granted police custody of Sori, but ordered that she be medically examined prior to taking custody of her and before being produced before the court the following Monday [10]. However, the police failed to produce Sori before the court on Monday, claiming she had suffered serious injuries due to falling down in the prison bathroom and had to be admitted to a hospital. A video captured by a reporter in the hospital showed her writhing in severe pain on a hospital bed [11]. A medical examination conducted by doctors in the hospital showed
“contusions” on her head and “tenderness in her lumbar region,” likely to have been caused by “a hard and blunt object,” but observed that there were no visual signs of “bony fractures [12].” The medical report also noted black marks on both her middle fingers. We suspect these marks were caused by the administration of electric shocks by the police.
The Chhattisgarh police took her to hospitals in Jagdalpur and Raipur later in the week.
Remarkably, the medical reports from these hospitals failed to confirm even the observations reported by the doctors in Dantewada. It was in response to this sequence of events that activists [14] and lawyers filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India demanding an independent medical examination [15], outside the control of the Chhattisgarh police. The Government of Chhattisgarh denied that Sori had been tortured, but the Supreme Court granted the petition on grounds that “the injuries sustained by [Soni Sori] do not prima facie appear to be as simple as has been made out to be by the Chhattisgarh police.”
The intimidation on her family continues as we await the Supreme Court decision; on November 15, around 25 policemen arrived at Sori’s father’s house, in search of her brother, Ramdev, the sole caretaker of children.
Sori had earlier told relatives that the police had threatened to arrest Ramdev, should she disclose that she had been tortured. Sori is also being forced to allege that human rights activists are involved in violent activities as “urban Naxalites.” Lingaram Kodopi is also facing strong pressure to sign statements containing false confessions.
The Chhattisgarh police has a long record of committing human rights abuses and atrocities outside and inside prisons, well documented by human rights organizations in India, including PUCL and PUDR as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch [16,17, 18]. The Indian Supreme Court, an institution for which we have the
utmost respect, has also strongly condemned the abuses committed by the police and the vigilante forces organized, armed and funded by the state and national governments [19]. However, the Government of Chhattisgarh, with the support of the Government of India, has repeatedly failed to honor the orders of the Supreme Court of India [20, 21, 22].

*IADHRI is an international group of individuals and organizations concerned about growing civil rights violations in India

References:

1.   Supreme Court order regarding Soni Sori’s medical examination, October 20, 2011.

http://www.otherindia.org/dev/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=401:supreme-court-order-regarding-soni-soris-medical-examination&catid=100:case-in-supreme-court-&Itemid=183

2.  Soni Sori’s second letter

http://otherindia.org/dev/images/documents/sonisori/soniletter2.pdf

3.  Gautam Navlakha’s second affidavit

http://otherindia.org/dev/images/documents/sonisori/affidavit23112011.pdf

4.    ‘Chhattisgarh police will kill me: Soni Sori’

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws041011chhattisgarh.asp

5.   They dared to speak up. But that’s not done in Dantewada

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ws130911police.asp

6.   The Inconvenient Truth Of Soni Sori

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne151011coverstory.asp

7.   Chhattisgarh police official admits scripting case against tribals

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgtBZeLIuWs

8.    Chhattisgarh should drop charges against prisoners of conscience Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi and unconditionally release them: Public Statement by Amnesty International.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA20/047/2011/en

9.    We condemn the abuse of state power and the harassment of human rights defenders
in India: A public statement endorsed by more than 30 organizations and 68
individuals, October 6, 2011.

http://www.freebinayaksen.org/?p=2766

10.     Judicial remand for Adivasi woman in ‘protection money’ case, Aman Sethi, The Hindu, October 11, 2011

11.      Soni Sori in hospital, writhing in pain (video) http://www.freebinayaksen.org/?p=2780

12.          Medical reports and the affidavit of the government of Chhattisgarh in response to Soni Sori’s petition before the Supreme Court seeking independent medical examination.

http://otherindia.org/dev/images/documents/sonisori/himanshu.pdf

13.          Soni Sori to Supreme Court: SP gave me electric shocks, undressed me and tortured me

http://www.otherindia.org/dev/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=406:soni-sori-to-supreme-court-sp-gave-me-electric-shocks-undressed-me-and-tortured-me&catid=97:soni-sori&Itemid=160

14.   People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding Soni Sori, October 11, 2011.

http://www.freebinayaksen.org/?p=2794

15.               Affidavit regarding Soni Sori

http://www.otherindia.org/dev/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=397:affidavit-regarding-soni-sori&catid=100:case-in-supreme-court-&Itemid=183

16.               Amnesty International statement on Kopa Kunjam’s arrest.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/023/2009/en/b017737b-8810-4b37-a8fa-6e9a7fbfa534/asa200232009en.pdf

17.               When the State Makes War On Its Own People

http://www.pucl.org/Topics/Human-rights/2006/salwa_judum.pdf

18.               Being neutral is our biggest crime, Human Rights Watch, 2008

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/india0708webwcover.pdf

19.               Full text of the judgement: Nandini Sundar and others vs. The State of Chhattisgarh

http://www.freebinayaksen.org/wp-content/2011/07/SC-SalwaJudum-Judgement.pdf

20.               Dantewada’s Dilemma, by Smita Gupta, Frontline, November 5, 2011

http://www.frontline.in/stories/20111118282310100.htm

21.               Chhattisgarh to absorb SPOs into police force, Hindustan Times, July 24, 2011

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Chhattisgarh-to-absorb-SPOs-into-police-force/Article1-724809.aspx

22.               Chhattisgarh bucks Court order, Aman Sethi, The Hindu, August 13, 2011

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2351607.ece

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