The American Bar Association, the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world, has released a press statement expressing concern about the continued pretrial detention of minority-rights advocates in the Bhima Koregaon case in India during COVID-19. The ABA has appealed to the Indian courts to ensure that the defendants’ fair-trial-rights are fully protected and to end their prolonged pretrial detention. The statement is reproduced below.
WASHINGTON, May 28, 2021 — The American Bar Association is deeply concerned about the continued pretrial detention of minority-rights advocates in the Bhima Koregaon case in India. As many of the accused are over the age of 65 and have serious medical conditions, these activists are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 as India deals with a substantial surge in cases.
The Bhima Koregaon case involves 16 individuals known for their advocacy in support of disenfranchised communities such as Dalits (Untouchables) and Adivasis (tribal groups). They are facing criminal charges and have been in pretrial detention for more than two years.
In 2019, the ABA Center for Human Rights issued a Preliminary Fair Trial report, examining how the prosecution of the Bhima Koregaon activists violates India’s laws and its obligations under international law. Defense counsel for the activists have submitted applications for pretrial bail at many courts, including the High Court of Mumbai. As these courts assess bail applications, the ABA respectfully appeals to the Indian courts to ensure that the defendants’ fair trial rights are fully protected and end their prolonged pretrial detention.