US Law Firm Guernica 37 Seeks Targeted Sanctions Against Yogi Adityanath For Encounter Killings

A team of international criminal and human rights attorneys recently submitted an official request to the US administration for targeted sanctions against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his part in extrajudicial executions reportedly perpetrated by the state’s police forces between 2017 and 2021.

US Law Firm Guernica 37 Seeks Targeted Sanctions Against Yogi Adityanath For Encounter Killings

The proposal, which was lodged with the US Departments of State and Treasury on February 9, 2022, additionally proposes sanctions targeting Om Prakash Singh, the just retired Director-General of the Uttar Pradesh Police, and Sanjeev Tyagi, the Superintendent of the Kanpur Police District.

“We believe that there is an evidential basis to suggest that the three individuals were in a position of command and control at the time the police that undertook the killings, that they failed to prevent or punish, and that there are statements and orders which would suggest that a direct link the crimes as alleged,” international lawyer Toby Cadman said.

“The submission presents credible sources that show how the UP police carried out at least 146 extra-judicial killings in a pattern of so-called “encounters” since Yogi Adityanath came into power in 2017 and declared a “zero tolerance policy” against crimes,” Cadman, an Associate Counsel at the Guernica 37 Centre, which lodged the submission, added.

“These ‘encounters’ are staged confrontations between the police and alleged criminals where the suspects eventually are shot dead in what the police claim is an act of self-defence. However, in many of these cases, witness testimonies, autopsy reports, and other evidence demonstrate that the victims were in fact executed.”

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In addition, Adityanath serves as the state’s home minister. The Guernica submission arrives as Uttar Pradesh holds parliamentary assembly elections, with Adityanath seeking re-election for a second term.

People who are accountable for, involved in, or participated in “serious human rights abuse,” such as (read the document below) extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, or forced disappearances, can be sanctioned under the US Department of Treasury’s Global Magnitsky sanctions.

Any property owned by a sanctioned individual in the United States, or in the possession or control of US people, is “blocked and must be reported to” the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It also prohibits any person or company in the United States from transacting business with these individuals. Sanctions might potentially include travel restrictions to the United States.

“Indian authorities have failed to act properly against custodial torture, deaths and extrajudicial  killings, creating culture of impunity,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch stated. “Lack of effective domestic accountability mechanisms serve as a reason for foreign governments to consider targeted sanctions.”

In a letter to the Indian government in January 2019, UN human rights specialists expressed concern about 59 extrajudicial executions by policemen in Uttar Pradesh since March 2017.

“We are extremely concerned about the pattern of events: individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture,” the UN experts stated at the time. The UN investigators also expressed worry in the letter over statements made by high-ranking state administration and police officials that appeared to incite, condone, or approve killings.

Adityanath declared in a TV interview a few months after taking office that if offenders did not change their methods, his police would just not think twice to ‘knock down‘ them. The state administration has also touted these shootings as a success as part of the state government’s “zero tolerance policy” for crime and the maintenance of law and order.

In November 2021, a report by a committee led by a former Supreme Court judge slammed the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other regulatory authorities for their inquiry of 17 suspected “encounter” deaths that occurred four years before.

“Wanton killings through such unconstitutional activity are unfortunately being given a veneer of respectability through the expression ‘instant justice,’ even though in most cases it is nothing but cold-­blooded murder,” Justice Madan B. Lokur wrote in the report.

The Guernica 37 Centre, situated in the United States, is affiliated to the Guernica 37 Network, an international group of criminal and human rights attorneys that collaborate with victims and their communities to ensure justice for atrocities they have witnessed. It has recently been involved in requests for sanctions against Bangladeshi government and law enforcement officers to the US and UK governments.

The United States sanctioned Bangladesh’s special police unit, the Rapid Action Battalion, as well as seven previous and present police and army officers, including the country’s current police chief, in December 2021 for their involvement in extrajudicial executions.

“Widespread allegations of serious human rights abuse in Bangladesh by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) – as part of the Bangladeshi government’s war on drugs – threaten US national security interests by undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the economic prosperity of the people of Bangladesh,” the US Treasury press release noted at the time.

The following are excerpts from a new Guernica contribution about extrajudicial killings in Uttar Pradesh:

“Being the Chief Minister and Home Minister, Yogi Adityanath has the final executive authority in the state of UP over the police. Despite this, he failed to prevent the police under his command from committing serious human rights violations nor did he take measures to investigate or prosecute the perpetrators. On the contrary, he condoned such behaviour and rewarded police officers for their transgressions.”

Regarding Om Prakash Singh was the Director General of Police in Uttar Pradesh from January 2018 to January 31, 2020, the filing claims that “he had overall command over the police force in UP but failed to take action against the serious human rights abuses committed by the forces under his command.”

Sanjeev Tyagi, who had been the Superintendent of Police of Kanpur District from March 2021 but had previously served as the Superintendent of Police of Bijnor District from January 2019 onwards, according to Guernica 37 Centre’s report, “He had direct command over police officers who committed serious human rights abuses against [Citizenship Amendment Act] opponents, including the killing of two victims.”

The media has reached out to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Office of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, as well as the Indian Embassy in Washington for clarification, but are yet to get a comment.

Read the document below:

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