Preamble

“Adopted in the First National Convention of People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space held in New Delhi on May 21-22, 2016”

Defining Human Rights Defenders

We believe that ‘Human Rights Defenders’ (HRDs) are individuals, groups and associations, committed to defend and uphold all human rights and fundamental freedoms. HRDs work towards elimination of all forms of violations of human rights and protect and promote fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals, including principles of democracy and secularism. Further, HRDs through their works and engagements, in any form and medium, promote, protect and realise, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. HRDs address any human rights concerns, which can be as varied as, for example, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, prisoner rights, militarisation, social and structural discrimination, employment and livelihood issues, forced evictions and displacements, access to basic necessities for dignified human life, ecology, environment, people’s rights over land and natural resources, discrimination on the grounds of gender, caste, ethnicity, religion, faith, ideology and sexual preferences and, rights of indigenous peoples, etc. HRDs seek accountability and transparency of public institutions and private sector. The definition of HRDs is as inclusive and broad it could be to include students, workers, trade unionists, RTI activists, whistleblowers (state officials), lawyers, journalists, artists, activists, professionals etc. HRDs’ work often involves criticism of government/state policies, laws and accords, and non-state actors.

Objective

Respond to and advocate the issues of freedoms of opinion, expression, association, assembly, dissent, protest and all other rights, including harassment and criminalisation, of all HRDs, as outlined above.

PCSDS: Structure, Mandate and Membership

There will be two tier structure proposed for the process. People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space (PCSDS) is the main body, a larger umbrella organisation of which Permanent People’s Tribunal on Shrinking Democratic Space (PPTSDS) would be a body specifically taking up and addressing cases of defenders. PCSDS will be membership based body whereas PPTSDS will be mandated by PCSDS and will consist of jury panels of eminent people drawn from various sectors of society. PPTSDS will periodically look into the instances of shrinking democratic spaces within a given framework as mandated by the PCSDS.

  • PCSDS would be a membership based body of individuals and organisations who agree and accept to defend and uphold all human rights and fundamental freedoms. PCSDS would bring on board the strengths of human rights movement and build upon it towards the said objectives.
  • Any person can apply for membership based on the eligibility criteria laid down in the charter.
  • The individual membership of any member of PCSDS and the right to represent any organisation member of PCSDS, would cease to exist upon being appointed to the PPTSDS.
  • PCSDS would generate financial resources through membership and supporters.Since members of PCSDS will be from across states, all members from within a particular state would form the State General Body. State General Body would elect representatives for the National General Body. The National General Body would elect the National Executive Committee.

PPTSDS: Structure, Composition, Mandate

PPTSDS would respond to the issues of freedoms of opinion, expression, association, assembly, dissent, protest and all other rights, including harassment and criminalisation, of all HRDs, as outlined above, by taking up the issues forwarded by PCSDS Secretariat, studying them, holding sittings and coming out with reports.

PPTSDS is proposed to have periodic sittings in all regions and nationally and special sittings as deemed fit by PCSDS. PPTSDS as per the requirements would also appoint an amicus curaiae. PPTSDS would also scrutinise the performances of National and State Human Rights Institutions and all Courts with regard to the said objectives of the PCSDS.

The members of the PPTSDS would be approved by the National General Body of PCSDS. The State General Body shall also have the right to recommend / nominate jury members of the PPTSDS. PPTSDS would comprise a wide range of reputed individuals, including former members of judiciary, with a commitment to human rights, from diverse thematic fields, regions and identities hence making the composition inclusive of expertise in a range of issues.

Secretariat

The PCSDS secretariat would implement the decision making processes, receive and process complaints/cases and engage in proactive roles, maintain information flow between various concerned bodies and members. The secretariat would also undertake the ongoing work of the PCSDS, research, publications, campaign, advocacy, media, training facilitation, database maintenance, relevant information, coordination with pro-bono legal aid lawyers etc. The PCSDS secretariat would also coordinate with PPTSDS Registry for undertaking PPTSDS activities. The PCSDS secretariat in coordination with the State Executive Committee would also encourage and assist human rights defenders to bring forward their complaints/cases as per the respective thematic issues to the PPTSDS Registry.

Registry

PPTSDS Registry would focus its efforts on legal research to deal with complaints/cases which would eventually be looked into by the PPTSDS. PPTSDS Registry along with the legal researchers would also have thematic experts who would be engaged from time to time as per the requirements of the complaints/cases that would be looked into by PPTSDS.