UN human rights chief urges India to protect rights of displaced in Gujarat

5 September 2002

Reacting to the reported closure of camps for displaced people in the Indian State of Gujarat, the senior United Nations human rights official has urged New Delhi to provide adequate housing for the affected population.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson called on the Government of India to ensure that those persons internally displaced since February's outbreak of violence in Gujarat, were not cut off from life-saving assistance, including adequate shelter, as a result of the ongoing closure of relief camps.

In a statement released in Geneva on Wednesday, Mrs. Robinson emphasized India's responsibility to ensure conditions that would encourage people to return to their homes voluntarily and with dignity. These conditions included prosecuting the perpetrators of the violence and taking steps to provide adequate housing.

"The slow progress in relief and rehabilitation work on the one hand, and non-arrest and non-punishment of the guilty and fear of communal backlash on the other, have hampered the process of restoration of normalcy to the State," she said.

With elections imminent, the High Commissioner recognized India's history of firm commitment to upholding citizens' right to vote and underlined the need for the safe and voluntary return of people to their homes to enable more Gujaratis to take part in the polls.