17 Indian Migrant Workers At Risk in Sharjah

April 26, 2010

Seventeen young Indian men from the state of Punjab were convicted of killing a young Pakistani national in the Sharjah emirate (part of the United Arab Emirates or UAE).  You can take action by navigating to a pdf of the Urgent Action, here. You can also email the UAE Minister of Justice at http://ecomplaint.moj.gov.ae/WComplaintEnglish.aspx and asking to commute all 17 death sentences.

They were sentenced to death on March 29, by a lower court in the emirate of Sharjah, for the murder during a fight over the trade in alcohol among migrant workers, in which three other Pakistani nationals were injured. The 17 had been arrested shortly after the killing, in early 2009. Their appeal against the sentence is due to be heard on May 19.

On April 20, following a visit to the UAE, lawyers from the Indian NGO Lawyers for Human Rights International (LFHRI) said in a press release that police had tortured the 17 in custody over nine days, beating them with clubs, subjecting them to electric shocks, depriving them of sleep and forcing them to stand on one leg “for prolonged periods” as guards sought to force them to “confess.” Soon after their arrest they were taken to the scene of the killing and forced to re-enact it: they were forced to beat up an official, pretending to be the man who was killed. This was filmed, and the film was presented by the prosecution at their trial as authentic footage of the killing. Under international standards, the 17 should have had access to legal counsel of their choice: they were provided with an Sharjah lawyer, who could not speak their native language, Punjabi, and did not refer to the torture in court. Trial proceedings were translated from Arabic into Hindi, which the 17 do not understand. According to the LFHRI, they were held for months before the Indian government was told they had been arrested. You can read their full report HERE.

According to the LFHRI, officials in Sharjah Jail forcibly removed religious symbolic 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.”