UN experts express concern about ongoing abuses in Manipur, India.

On September 4, 2023, in Geneva, UN experts expressed deep concern regarding severe human rights violations and abuses occurring in the Northeastern State of Manipur, India. These violations encompassed allegations of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, the destruction of homes, forced displacement, torture, and ill-treatment.

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The experts highlighted the inadequate humanitarian response to the dire situation in Manipur, which stemmed from a recent community conflict between the predominantly Hindu Meitei and the predominantly Christian Kuki ethnic communities that erupted in May 2023. By mid-August 2023, an estimated 160 individuals, primarily from the Kuki ethnic community, had reportedly been killed, with over 300 others injured. The conflict had also led to tens of thousands of people from both communities being displaced, the destruction of thousands of homes and hundreds of churches, as well as farmland, crops, and livelihoods.

The experts expressed shock at reports and images depicting gender-based violence primarily targeting women and girls of the Kuki ethnic minority. These alleged acts of violence included gang rapes, public humiliation, fatal beatings, and the burning of women, either alive or after death. They noted that the violence seemed to have been fueled by hateful and inflammatory speech, both online and offline, which sought to justify atrocities based on ethnicity and religious beliefs. Additionally, the experts raised concerns about the misuse of counterterrorism measures to legitimize violence and repression against ethnic and religious minorities.

The experts considered the events in Manipur as a distressing development in the deteriorating situation faced by religious and ethnic minorities in India. They expressed serious apprehensions about the slow and insufficient response by the Government of India, including law enforcement, in addressing physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur.

The experts acknowledged the fact-finding mission conducted by lawyers and human rights defenders in Manipur and the subsequent involvement of the Supreme Court of India in addressing the situation. However, they stressed the need for a timelier response and urged the Supreme Court to continue monitoring the actions of the government and other stakeholders, with a focus on ensuring justice, accountability, and reparations. They also voiced concerns about the reported criminalization and harassment of human rights defenders documenting these cases.

Furthermore, the experts called upon the government to intensify relief efforts for those affected and to take swift and decisive action to investigate acts of violence, holding perpetrators accountable. This accountability should extend to public officials who may have aided and abetted the incitement of racial and religious hatred and violence.

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