The arrest came one day after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The organisation has also called for the release of Former Director General of Police of Gujarat RB Sreekumar, and suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who along with Setalvad are named in a First Information Report for alleged fabrication of evidence in the 2002 Gujarat Riots case.
Setalvad is the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) – an organisation formed to advocate for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
'Systematic Targeting of Human Rights Defenders by the Indian State Must Stop'
"The systematic targeting of human rights defenders by the Indian state must stop," the organisation said in its statement, adding that the reprisals against defenders and civil society organisations who conduct legitimate human rights work are completely "unacceptable and incompatible" in a constitutional democracy.
"They are in breach of India’s international law obligations," it added.
Stating that Teesta Setalvad has been fighting tirelessly for justice for victims of communal violence in India, the WGHR said she is well-known and respected as a courageous champion of the rights of the most vulnerable.
"WGHR is of the firm belief that Teesta’s arrest amounts to retaliation and reprisals for seeking accountability from all, including those in positions of power, and for standing with the victims of the attack, including Ehsan Jafri’s wife, Zakia Jafri," the organisation said.
"We are deeply concerned by the arrest of Teesta Setalvad as it reflects an aggressive abuse of power and law by the State machinery, in grave breach of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to citizens under the Indian Constitution," the statement added.
The organisation further said that the turn of events leading to the arrest of Setalvad has also raised questions about the Indian government's commitments to human rights and human rights defenders (HRDs), not just domestically but also at the global level.
The WGHR was established in January 2009 by a group of civil society organisations and independent experts working in the field of human rights in India.
The WGHR works towards the realisation of all civil, cultural, economic, political, and social human rights in the country and towards holding the Indian government accountable to its national and international human rights obligations, notes Partners for Law in Development (PLD) in its website. The PLD is a member of the WGHR, which provides expertise on the issue of women’s rights in India.
At the national level, the WGHR seeks to engage with relevant human rights, government, parliamentary, judicial and academic institutions. At the international level, the WGHR seeks to effectively work with United Nations (UN) human rights instruments and mechanisms.
Claiming that Zakia Jafri's appeal was "devoid of merits," the Supreme Court, on Friday, 24 June, dismissed it and upheld the magistrate's decision to accept the final report submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the 2002 Gujarat riots case.
Zakia had challenged the clean chit given by the SIT to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others in the alleged larger conspiracy behind the riots. Jafri had also sought a probe in the purportedly larger conspiracy.
A co-petitioner in the case, Setalvad testified at the United Nations Commission on International Religious Freedom against the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government for its role in the communal violence.
In her petition filed with Zakia Jafri, Setalvad and her organisation CJP demanded a criminal trial of Narendra Modi and 63 other politicians, alleging criminal conspiracy to fan communal tensions in the state in the wake of the Godhra Train Tragedy.
Setalvad was detained by the Crime Branch in Mumbai on Saturday and was taken to Ahmedabad later that night. This came hours after Home Minister Amit Shah said in an interview that her NGO had spread "baseless" information regarding the 2002 Gujarat Riots.
Setalvad and Sreekumar have since been remanded to Gujarat police custody till 1 July. Bhatt is already in jail in connection with a different case.