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UN human rights group flays firing at Sterlite

Vidya Ram London | Updated on June 01, 2018

Police lathi-charging anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi   -  N. Rajesh

UN human rights experts have condemned the Tamil Nadu police’s “disproportionate” and “excessive use of lethal force” against protesters at the now closed Sterlite copper plant. They have called for an independent investigation to ensure that those who violated human rights are brought to justice.

They have also called on Sterlite Industries and Vedanta Resources to take “immediate action” to mitigate pollution and ensure access to safe water and healthcare.

“The Government should uphold the right to freedom of expression and assembly, as they are the cornerstone of democratic societies and a critical tool to identify and protect against business-related human rights abuses,” said the group, led by Anita Ramasastry, chair of the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational organisations.

They expressed extreme concern over the use of force, including live ammunition, against protesters “marching to raise legitimate human rights and environmental concerns”.

They pointed to documentation from judicial and administrative bodies of water contamination, air pollution and other forms of environmental degradation linked to the plant.

“Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, all business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights, including identifying, preventing, mitigating and accounting for how they address their adverse human rights impact,” they said, in a statement released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

The working group has been in place since 2011 to promote and disseminate the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UN experts are the latest international voices to raise concerns about the events that unfolded on May 22. Human rights NGOs have also raised concerns about the handling of the protests.

Amnesty International said the Tamil Nadu government had been “shockingly underprepared” to peacefully control what was expected to be a massive protest. Human Rights Watch called for a “prompt, impartial and transparent investigation.”

In London, where Vedanta Resources is listed and headquartered, the main opposition Labour Party has described the company as a “rogue” corporation and called for its delisting from the London Stock Exchange to remove the “cloak of respectability”.

Several demonstrations have taken place in London outside the Indian High Commission as well as Anil Agarwal’s home.

A public petition to the British Parliament’s e-petition website calling for British authorities to investigate and ban the company from the stock exchange was rejected on the grounds that the responsibility for listing companies lay with the LSE. The exchange has declined to comment on the delisting call.

Published on June 01, 2018

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