AJC vows to contest US State Department’s “suggestion of immunity” to PM Modi
American Justice Center vows to contest US State Department’s “suggestion of immunity” to PM Modi
October 20, 2014
New York, USA: The American Justice Center (AJC), an organization that has filed a lawsuit against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for genocide and crimes against humanity, has vowed to contest vigorously the “Suggestion of Immunity” filed by the US Administration in the Alien Tort case filed against Mr. Modi when he visited the United States in late September 2014. Modi has been widely accused by national and international human rights organizations for presiding over mass violence against Muslims which resulted in the killing of over 2,000 people and included mass rapes against minority women.
In its suggestion to the US District Court, filed by the United States government through Attorney Preet Bharara, the government has argued for immunity to Prime Minister Modi on grounds of Mr. Modi being the “sitting head of government of the Republic of India.”
AJC has drawn attention to the fact that the summons were issued on the grounds that even though Modi is the sitting Prime Minister, he can’t escape prosecution for actions prior to assuming the Prime Minister’s office. In fact, such precedence already exists in the case of former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was taken to court by US based human rights groups for his complicity in mass violence against Sikhs. On August 20, 2014, US District Judge James Boasberg in the District of Columbia ruled in the case against Dr. Manmohan Singh that immunity as head of state applied only to acts committed during his tenure as Prime Minister, and did not cover his tenure as Finance Minister prior to becoming the Prime Minister.
In the case of Mr. Narendra Modi, the case brought by victims of the Gujarat pogroms of 2002, are related to acts committed during Mr. Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat, long before he became India’s Prime Minister.
“We will challenge the suggestion of immunity by the US Government,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, attorney for the AJC. “The suggestion by the US Department of State not only violates the US laws and established US policy on the issue of human rights violations but also violates several provisions of US Laws such as Human Rights Enforcement Act and International Religious Freedom Act,” added Mr. Pannun.
“While it is deeply regrettable that the United States has decided to claim immunity for PM Modi at the urging of Indian government, it is heartening however to note the suggestion of immunity clearly states the “United States expresses no view on the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims against Prime Minister Modi,” said Mr. Joseph Whittington Jr., President of the American Justice Center. “We have a very strong case, and are confident that being the head of state will not be an impediment in prosecuting Modi and holding him accountable for the actions as Chief Minister of Gujarat”, added Mr. Whittington.
The Gujarat pogroms of 2002 were one of the worst episodes of violence targeting minorities in India since it achieved independence from Britain, and was marked with horrific crimes against humanity, including the rape of hundreds of women. Many of the victims were subsequently burned alive. Mr. Modi’s relentless PR efforts have tried to spin the decision of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to not prosecute him, as a “clean chit.” The US government’s decision not to use this claim in its suggestion of immunity, is a clear acknowledgement of the fact that the case against Mr. Modi has not even reached the Supreme Court. A case filed by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, is pending against Mr. Modi in the Gujarat High Court. An amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court has recommended Mr. Modi’s prosecution.
The American Justice Center (AJC) is a human rights organization dedicated to holding human rights abusers and perpetrators of mass violence accountable. AJC provides legal aid and support for international judicial redress to victims deprived of legitimate and legal means to justice.
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Pannun Law Firm (Attorney & Legal Adviser to Plaintiff)
Gurpatwant S. Pannun
Email: gurpatwant.pannun [at] gmail.com