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'Respect Role of Human Rights Activists': US State Dept Office on Swamy's Death

"We call on government to respect the vital role of human rights activists in healthy democracies," the tweet read.

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The US State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom on Thursday, 8 July, expressed their sadness over the death of activist Father Stan Swamy.

"We call on government to respect the vital role of human rights activists in healthy democracies," the tweet read.

On Tuesday, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had condemned the death of Swamy as well.

“USCIRF is deeply saddened and appalled by the death of 84-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy. For years, he fought for the rights and dignity of low-caste and poor people across India,” said USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava, according to the statement.

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“Father Swamy died in the custody of Indian authorities who targeted him for giving voice to the human rights concerns of Adivasis and other low-caste, religious and poor communities. The Indian government held him for these past months, without any trial or conviction, despite lack of credible evidence on the charges filed against him, his deteriorating health, and global calls for his release," the statement further read.

A State Department spokesperson too had expressed its sadness at Swamy's death, adding that the US regularly took up the issue of Swamy's detention with the Indian government as part of their consultations on human rights and other bilateral issues, reported IANS.

"We are saddened to learn of the death of Father Stan Swamy, a tireless advocate for the human rights of disadvantaged communities," the spokesperson said.

"Our condolences go out to Father Swamy's family and all those with whom he worked and mentored to make the world a more just place for us all."
US State Department spokesperson

Swamy's detention by the NIA was mentioned in the State Department's 2020 International Freedom Report released in May.

International Figures React to Swamy's Passing

Father Stan Swamy, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case, died of cardiac arrest on Monday, a day before his bail hearing. As his health deteriorated, 84-year-old Swamy had reportedly been placed on ventilator support at Mumbai’s Holy Family Hospital a day prior.

Swamy's death, after prolonged illness, incarceration, and multiple rejections of his attempts to get bail, has drawn criticism from many quarters.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNCHR) had acknowledged Swamy's passing in a press note on Tuesday, and said that they are "saddened and disturbed" by it.

Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and Eamon Gilmore, EU Special Representative for Human Rights and EU Special Envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia also tweeted about Swamy's passing.

Centre Defends Its Treatment of Swamy

The Indian government has however defended its treatment of Swamy and dismissed international criticism.

Reacting to statements from international figures, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Tuesday, said that Swamy had been arrested and detained by National Investigation Agency (NIA) following due process under law.

Authorities in India act against violations of law and not against legitimate exercise of rights, the MEA said in a statement, adding that all actions are strictly in accordance with the law.

"India's democratic and constitutional polity is complemented by an independent judiciary, a range of national, and state level Human Rights Commissions that monitor violations, a free media, and a vibrant and vocal civil society," the statement read.

(With inputs from IANS)

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