The United Nations on Tuesday said it is "disturbed by the death" of 84-year-old priest-activist Father Stan Swamy. "No one should be detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association," said the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement.
Stan Swamy had been held in pre-trial detention without bail since his arrest last year under anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. The health of the Jesuit priest deteriorated while he was in Mumbai's Taloja Central Jail. His repeated applications for bail on medical grounds, however, were rejected. He died on Monday as the Bombay High Court was considering an appeal against the rejection of his bail application.
"With COVID-19, it is even more urgent that States release every person detained without sufficient legal basis," said the global body.
#India: We are saddened & disturbed by the death of 84-year-old human rights defender Father #StanSwamy, after prolonged pre-trial detention. With COVID-19, it is even more urgent that States release every person detained without sufficient legal basis.— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) July 6, 2021
Stan Swamy had in the past alleged neglect by prison officials in ensuring medical aid and social distancing amid the pandemic.
The death of the tribal rights activist has triggered an outpour of shock, outrage and despair on social media from political leaders and other activists.
"The news from India today is devastating Human Rights Defender & Jesuit priest Fr Stan Swamy has died in custody, nine months after his arrest on false charges of terrorism," UN special rapporteur for human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, said on Twitter on Monday."Jailing HRDs is inexcusable," she added, referring to human rights defenders.
Stan Swamy was the oldest of a dozen people accused of violence in 2018 and imprisoned under the anti-terror law, which allows for prolonged detention for questioning.