Sikhs sentenced to death in UAE

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On 29 March 2010, 17 Indian migrant workers, all of whom believed to be Sikhs, based in the Middle Eastern country called United Arab Emirates (UAE) were sentenced to death by a Shariat court of Sharjah. Sharjah is the third largest and most populous city in this Arabian emirate. The UAE is a federation of seven emirates situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Southwest Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia; it consists of seven states, termed emirates, which are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. They were accused of murdering a Pakistani man.

A two member team comprising of Navkiran Singh, a human rights lawyer and activist from Punjab practising in the High Court at Chandigarh and who is the General Secretary of LFHRI along with another lawyer Gagan Aggarwal, visited Dubai and Sharjah on 13th and 14th of April and met the local lawyers who had been hired to defend these 17 Indians by the Indian Consulate of UAE.

They found that the Sikh prisoners had reported that none of them was arrested from the spot of the crime. Further, on their arrest they were brutally tortured by severe beatings to each one of them for 9 days by police from the CID branch. They were beaten with Golf clubs and plastic pipes and were also given electric shocks.

They were made to stand on one foot and not allowed to sleep and asked to make confessions to the crime, which as per their version they never committed; however in spite of the brutal torture, the accused never confessed. Some of these prisoners also showed the injuries received by them in the police interrogation and also disclosed that the injuries were highlighted in their medical reports. It transpires that the Court failed to take these important facts into consideration before sentencing the 17 men.

Latest News

Judge rules Sikhs must understand charges made against them (released 16 May 2010)

A Sharjah court in the United Arab Emirates has adjourned the trial for seventeen men from the Sikh community who have been sentenced to death, as the appeal to save their lives commenced today. On the 16th June another hearing will be made; Judge Yunis Al-Reda will now hear the appeal once all court proceedings and reports of the case against the accused have been formally translated into Punjabi.

In police custody, the men have been subjected to torture methods and other human rights violations. According to the LFHRI (Lawyers for Human Rights International) ‘The Sikh religion has been mocked and slandered. The lawyers who spoke to the tortured men heard how the officials in Sharjah jail made the prisoners stamp on religious bracelets and necklaces until they broke into pieces, then torment the men about ‘what their God is doing for them.’

The Indian embassy has assured that they will supply a translation of the documents within a week. Up until now, none of the young boys held in custody have been given information about the case against them in the language they understand. The Emirati lawyer who originally represented the seventeen, did not mention to the court anything about the torture they boys were subjected to. In the original court case where the death penalty was given to all men, the trial proceedings were translated from Arabic into Hindi, which the men did not understand.

Sikhs around the world have been pushing for a fair trial, to implement basic human rights. Over 10,000 Sikhs gathered opposite Downing Street on the 16th May to support these Sikhs and to urge the British Government to ensure that these boys have a fair trial, and all evidence against the accused is made available.

The young men aged between 21 and 25 are migrant workers from India. They moved to Dubai in search of work to send money back to their loved ones in Punjab. Dubai, a luxury paradise has been built by the hands of men such as these. The families of the seventeen men contest their innocence and have appealed to the Indian Government to step in and repatriate the men back to India.

Judge Yunis Al-Reda has ruled the appeal proceedings in Court will continue on the 16th June, once the seventeen young men have been given access to hear the evidence and understand the case against them in a language they understand, Punjabi. This gives the Sikh community and human rights activists time to put pressure on the judicial, to ensure these young boys are freed and sent back to their loving families in India.

Main News

UAE must investigate allegations of torture of Indian men on death row amnesty.org 23 April 2010

Amnesty International has condemned abuses and torture said to have been meted out to 17 Indian men facing the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates for the murder of a Pakistani national.

The migrant workers, sentenced to death on 29 March, are alleged to have been tortured by police over nine days while in custody in a bid to make them ‘confess’ to the crime.

The men were beaten with clubs, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and forced to stand on one leg for ‘prolonged periods’, say Lawyers For Human Rights International (LFHRI), an Indian NGO campaigning on behalf of the men.

Navkiran Singh, of the LFHRI says that a month after their arrest they were taken to the scene of the killing and forced to re-enact it. They were made to beat up a policeman posing as the dead man. The scene was videotaped and later presented at their trial as genuine CCTV footage of the killing.

“This is a mockery of justice. These 17 men have been tortured, forced to confess, and sentenced to death based on a fake video”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty International is calling on the UAE authorities to investigate the allegations of torture and abuse and to ensure the 17 men receive a fair trial on appeal, and without recourse to the death penalty.

They must be protected from further torture and other ill-treatment, and any evidence obtained using such methods should not be used in court.

The workers, all from the Punjab region and aged between 21 and 25, were arrested in January 2009, after a Pakistani man died and three more were injured in a fight, believed to be between rival gangs for control of an illegal alcohol business in the emirate of Sharjah.

According to the LFHRI, officials in Sharjah Jail forcibly removed religious bracelets and necklaces worn by the men, all but one of whom are Sikhs, and made the prisoners stamp on them, saying "Who is your God? Call him. We would like to meet him."

According to the information available to Amnesty International, the trial was conducted in Arabic then translated from Arabic into Hindi, neither of which the 17 men understand. They were provided with an Emirati lawyer, who could not speak their native language, Punjabi, and did not refer to the alleged torture in court.

The men were held for months before the Indian government was told they had been arrested. On 29 March the lower court in Sharjah sentenced them to death but the verdict was not made known to them until 14 April. An automatic appeal was filed on 8 April and the men will appear in court next on 19 May.

“The authorities must investigate these reports of torture and ensure that the results are made public and those allegedly responsible are held to account,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Sharjah is one of the seven semi-autonomous emirates that make up the UAE. In the UAE, a total of 3,113,000 foreign, migrant workers of over 200 nationalities work in 250,000 enterprises and as domestic workers. Migrant workers make up some 80 per cent of the total resident population of the UAE; UAE nationals around 20 per cent.

In 2009 at least three people were sentenced to death by courts in Dubai and Sharjah but no executions were reported. In June 2009, the Supreme Court set aside the death sentence imposed on a US national, Shahid Bolsen, because he had not had access to a lawyer at his lower court trial in Sharjah.

There appears to be a surge in the use of the death penalty in the UAE in 2010. In the month before the 17 Indian nationals were sentenced to death, according to a 22 February article in Abu Dhabi's newspaper The National, at least eight men had been sentenced to death in the UAE.


Fact Finding Report by LFHRI

Fact Finding Report by LFHRI ON THE SENTENCING OF 17 INDIANS TO DEATH BY THE SHARIAT COURT OF SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES.

The news of sentencing to Death of 17 Indians, accused of killing 1 person by a Shariat court of Sharjah in United Arab Emirates has shook the Indians as well as others around the world. It becoming a national issue, every politician of India and Panjab is trying to score a point on the other. Political mileages are being drawn from a tragedy. Congress Government at the centre as well as the Akalis of Punjab are trying to show and prove that their party is making more efforts than the other in ensuring that these 17 boys who incidentally belong to Sikh faith and are mostly residents of Punjab are properly defended.

Lawyers For Human Rights International an Organisation of Lawyers having its base in Punjab, India, being part of an International movement against Death Penalty, decided to visit Sharjah jail in UAE to meet the 17 prisoners who have been sentenced to Death for killing a Pakistani youth. Two member team comprising of Navkiran Singh a Human Rights Lawyer & Activist from Panjab, practicing in the High Court at Chandigarh and who is the General Secretary of LFHRI along with another Lawyer Gagan Aggarwal, visited Dubai and Sharjah on 13th and 14th of April 2010 and met the Lawyers who have been hired to defend these 17 Indians by the Indian Consulate of UAE and also visited Sharjah jail and met all the prisoners, whose names are :-

  • See list of Names below

The meeting was conducted for almost 2 hours, with these 17 young boys who are all aged between 21-25 years and it revealed a very sorry state of affairs. The apathy of the prisoners revealed a total miscarriage of Justice, highhandedness and religious biasness of the CID branch of Police of Sharjah and a total callous attitude of the Indian consulate towards the Indian citizens who are languishing in jails of UAE. The details are as below:-

  • A. BIASED INVESTIGATION: The prisoners reported that none of them was arrested from the spot and on their arrest they were brutally tortured by giving beatings to them for continuous 9 days by police men of CID branch. They were beaten with Golf clubs & plastic pipes and were also given electric shocks. They were made to stand on one foot and not allowed to sleep and asked to make confessions to the crime, which as per their version they never committed, however inspite of brutal torture, they never confessed. Some of these prisoners also showed their injuries received by them in the police interrogation and also disclosed that the said injuries are contained in their medical reports.
  • B. BOTCHED EVIDENCE: The accused reported that after around 30 days of the day of crime they were taken to the scene of crime , while in police custody they were forced to dramatise the beating up of a police man, as if it was the actual crime scene and the deceased was being beaten up before being killed and the whole scene was video graphed. As per the version of the prisoners, the said video was relied upon by the prosecution before the court. The prisoners were also made to thumb mark / sign on documents which were in Arabic language where as none of the prisoners could read / write, speak / understand Arabic.
  • C. RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE OF THE POLICE : The accused also reported that they were not only physically tortured by the CID wing of the Sharjah police, but were forced to show disrespect to their religious symbol ( KHANDA) which were being worn by some of the accused in gold chains in their necks. Then the accused were asked to step on the KHANDA’S to show disrespect to it. The police men played foot ball with the Khanda in order to desecrate the religious symbol. Their article of faith KARHA (IRON BRACELET) was removed by cutting with hack saw and were thrown into a dustbin. The police officials also kept on taunting the accused by saying, Who is your God ? Call him. We would like to meet him. The accused were humiliated to the extreme on the basis of their religion.
  • D. PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL JUSTICE VIOLATED BY THE COURT: None of the accused was supplied with a copy of the charge sheet. The whole trial process took place in the Arabic language which the accused never understood or read. In the whole trial process no translator of Arabic language (local language) to Punjabi language (the native language of the accused) was made available. The translator, which was provided was translating Arabic to Hindi (national language of India), where as the accused had little knowledge about Hindi language. So in other words what transpired in the court was never understood by the accused during the trial. Since the charge sheet was never made available to the accused in Arabic or their native language the whole trial is vitiated, as the accused did not get an opportunity to prove their innocence.

In the trial as disclosed by the accused, on the first 3 hearings which the brother of the deceased when asked the question as to whether he recognized any of the accused present in the court , he failed to identify any of them, inspite of his being an injured eye witness.

It is pertinent to note that though the judgment of their conviction was delivered on 29th March 2010, till 14th April 2010, neither the accused or the Lawyers have been made available with the copy of the judgment. It shows the Justice system in UAE to be very much arbitrary and discriminatory.

  • E. RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE OF THE JAIL STAFF: The accused disclosed that they are not allowed access to their religious prayer books and have been forced to keep away from their articles of faith. Two of the accused want to grow hair to be true Sikhs, however are not being permitted to do so. In the library of the jail there are no books in Punjabi language literature or of Sikh religion, which can be read by the inmates.
  • F. CALLOUS ATTITUDE OF THE INDIAN CONSULATE: Including these 17 accused there are around 50 accused who belong to Punjab and there are other accused from various parts of India, however the Indian consulate representative rarely visits any of them in jails of UAE. Other accused reported to us that out of their 9 months incarceration in the jail, only now has the consulate officials started visiting some of them, due to highlighting of these 17 accused case of death penalty. We also bring to the notice of all that besides these 17 Indians, another Indian is also sentenced to Death in another case and 8 more are also apprehending similar decision. So quick action is required at the hands of the Indian consulate in ensuring that the due judicial process is followed by the courts of Sharjah as per the International standards.

REMEDIAL ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN AT INDIAN GOVERNMENT LEVEL

  • 1. The consulates of India in countries abroad must introduce a mechanism to ensure that the Indian consulates like their counter parts are provided with the information immediately when an Indian national is taken in custody.
  • 2. The Indian consulate must ensure that the Human Rights of its citizens are not violated as per the International conventions and charters.
  • 3. Effective steps should be taken to ensure that there is no torture of its citizens while they are in police or jail custody and that the religious sentiments of each citizen as per his / her faith or religion is respected at all costs.
  • 4. The Indian consulates should be having counselors available in their consulates who can understand and speak languages understood and spoken by the Indians of its various regions.
  • 5. It should be incumbent upon the Indian consulates to maintain a file of each Indian arrested ad should visit them in the jails as per the need of each case and the consulates should be access able to the detenus, their relatives/ friends or well wishers for ensuring proper defense of the Indian citizens on foreign soil.
  • 6. The Indian consulates should also educate their counterpart embassies and consulates about the basic knowledge of each religion professed by its citizens in India. So that in the event of any violation of religious rights of an Indian citizen, ignorance should not be an excuse for the violation.

Other News

BBC

BBC: Amnesty International says UAE abused Indian prisoners

Rights group Amnesty International has condemned authorities in the United Arab Emirates over the alleged torture and forced confession of 17 Indians. They were sentenced to death last month for killing a Pakistani man. Amnesty says the men were taken to the scene of the killing in the emirate of Sharjah and forced to re-enact it. It says they were made to beat a police officer posing as the dead man a month after their arrest - an act filmed and presented as genuine evidence. There has so far been no comment so far on the allegations from the UAE authorities.

Faked video

Citing evidence produced by Indian rights group Lawyers For Human Rights International (LFHRI), Amnesty said that the 17 men were beaten with clubs, given electric shocks, deprived of sleep and forced to stand on one leg for prolonged periods. "This is a mockery of justice. These 17 men have been tortured, forced to confess and sentenced to death based on a faked video," Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sharaoui said.

"Amnesty International is calling on the UAE authorities to investigate the allegations of torture and abuse and to ensure the 17 men receive a fair trial on appeal," the group said in a statement.

The murder allegedly took place after a dispute over control of an illegal alcohol business. About 50 people were involved in the fatal attack in which the Pakistani man was stabbed repeatedly. Correspondents said gang violence connected to illicit alcohol is on the increase in the UAE, where the sale of such drink is controlled. Reports said that it could be the highest number of death sentences handed down at one time in the Emirates.

The 17 have appealed and are due to reappear in court on 19 May.


BBC: Death penalty for 17 Indians in UAE

A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced 17 Indian nationals to death for killing a Pakistani man. The murder took place after a dispute over control of an illegal alcohol business. About 50 people were involved in the fatal attack in which the Pakistani man was stabbed repeatedly.

Correspondents said gang violence connected to illicit alcohol is on the increase in the UAE, where the sale of such drink is controlled. Reports said that this could be the highest number of death sentences handed down at one time in the Emirates.

DNA tests

The attack happened in Sharjah, an Emirate just north of Dubai, in January 2009. Three other Pakistani men were injured in the attack, but they were rushed to hospital and survived. The Indian suspects were rounded up by the police immediately after the attack, it was reported, after the surviving victims were able to identify them.

Investigators said they had matched the suspects' DNA to weapons seized at the scene. The fight was part of a turf war between gangs of alcohol runners, the court said. Sharjah has the toughest restrictions on the sale of alcohol of all the Emirates - it is completely banned there.

In neighbouring Dubai, which relies on tourism for a large part of its revenue, alcohol consumption is regulated. But Dubai has also seen violent incidents associated with bootlegging. In February it was reported that 13 members of an alleged bootlegging gang from the Jebel Ali area of Dubai were accused of kidnapping two rivals, raping them and burying them alive.

Names of the 17 imprisoned Indians

  • 1. SATNAM SINGH S/O HARBANS SINGH, AGED 24 YEARS V.P.O KUHLI KALAN , DISTRICT LUDHIANA. PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 2. KULWINDER SINGH S/O BALDEV SINGH, AGED……… YEARS V.P.O BANGSIPURA , TEHSIL JAGRAON, DISTRICT LUDHIANA,PANJAB,INDIA.
  • 3. NAVJOT SINGH S/O AMRIK SINGH, AGED……………YEARS. V.P.O RAIPUR, DISTRICT LUDHIANA, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 4. TARANJIT SINGH S/O BALBIR SINGH, AGED……………YEARS. VILLAGE JAGDISHPURA , P.O KULTARAN, DISTRICT KAITHAL. HARYANA,INDIA
  • 5. BALJEET SINGH S/O BALWINDER SINGH, AGED………YEARS. VILLAGE SANGWAL, DISTRICT JALANDHAR. PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 6. SUBHAN S/O PYARE LAL, AGED………….YEARS. VILLAGE LOHIAN KHAS, DISTRICT JALANDHAR, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 7. DALJIT SINGH S/O MALKIAT SINGH, AGED………..YEARS. V.P.O AITIANA TEHSIL RIAKOT, DISTRICT LUDHIANA, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 8. KULDIP SINGH S/O SUBA SINGH, AGED……….YEARS. VILLAGE ……………………..DISTRICT MOGA, PANJAB, INDIA
  • 9. HARJINDER SINGH S/O SITAL SINGH, AGED………YEARS. NEW VISHKARMA COLONY , PHAGWARA, DISTRICT JALANDHAR, PANJAB,INDIA.
  • 10. ARVINDER SINGH S/O BALRAJ SINGH, AGED………YEARS. VILLAGE GOKHWAL, P.O BATALA, DISTRICT GURDASPUR. PANJAB,INDIA.
  • 11. SATGUR SINGH S/O GURMAIL SINGH, AGED ……….YEARS. VILLAGE GHANUA JATTAN , DISTRICT SANGRUR, PANJAB,INDIA.
  • 12. SUKHJINDER SINGH S/O GURMAIL SINGH, AGED…………YEARS. NEAR GURU CHAND GURUDWARA, PATTI, DISTRICT AMRITSAR, PANJAB,INDIA.
  • 13. KASHMIR SINGH S/O MOHINDER SINGH, AGED……..YEARS. RATTO KE GURUDWARA, P.O KHEMKARAN, TEHSIL PATTI DISTRICT AMRITSAR, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 14. RAM SINGH S/O MALKIAT SINGH, AGED ……..YEARS. VILLAGE KAWEVA, P.O PAREET NAGAR TEHSIL AJNALA, DISTRICT AMRITSAR, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 15. SUKHJINDER SINGH S/O MUKHTIAR SINGH, AGED..……YEARS. V.P.O MIANI BAGHU PURIA, TEHSIL BHULATH, DISTRICT KAPURTHALA,PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 16. DHARAMPAL SINGH S/O PARAMJIT SINGH, AGED………YEARS. V.P.O JHOKE TEHAL SINGH, DISTRICT FEROZEPUR, PANJAB, INDIA.
  • 17. SUKHJOT SINGH S/O JAGDEV SINGH, AGED 23 YEARS. VILLAGE SANGHERA, BARNALA , PANJAB, INDIA.

Protests organised

Sikh community organises protest at Downing Street to raise publicity for Sikhs in Dubai Campaign led by Sikh Channel MAY 16th 1pm - 4pm

Join the protest on Downing Street to show support for Sikhs in Dubai, and oppose the death penalty. Sikh Channel needs your participation to help save the lives of these innocent men on Sunday 16th May, from 1pm-4pm. These men are facing trial within a matter of weeks when they could be hung to death. Sikh Channel recommends those travelling by coach park on Victoria Embankment and everyone is to gather on Richmond Terrace, opposite Downing Street by 1pm. Please bring banners and boards with you. Click read more, below, to find the petition. Come and sign the paper petition to be handed on Downing Street on Sunday 16th May. All Sangat requested to join.

Sign the petition

Save Sikhs in Dubai We have 4628 signatures but we need more - Take action now! Sign this petition and get all your friends and family to do the same - DO IT NOW - we don't have much time left


Some of you may already be aware that 17 of our Sikh brothers are captured and are being t...ortured in a Dubai prison for a crime they did not commit. In under a fortnight they are going to be sentenced in court and as it stands they are likely to be 'hung till death'!

We need as many members as possible to join us this Sunday to protest on Downing Street, and help save their lives. As young Sikhs we have never been asked to support our people back in India so please please try your best to make it there even if its only for one hour or so.

Please can you take 5 mins to view the link attached to this event and pass this message on to as many people as you know. There is also an advert on the Sikh Channel (Sky 840) pleading for our support for the demonstration on Sunday.

This is one chance to save 17 lives-please help - follow this link - Save Sikhs in Dubai.


See also