NEW DELHI - In response to Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement claiming New Delhi was “not violating any international law” if it deported Rohingya refugees, Refugee Rights Programme Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Bill Frelick has said “when your neighbour flees his burning house, you are not at liberty to push him back into the flames because you consider him a trespasser.”
According to Frelick, “The Rohingya are literally fleeing their burning homes. The obligation not to push them back stems less from a signature on a piece of paper than from the fundamental principles of our shared humanity.”
“If India had not signed the Convention Against Torture would Indian authorities have carte blanche to torture and ill-treat anyone in custody?,” he asked in a HRW report. “Of course, not,” Frelick then said.
“India knows full well that certain principles of international law are considered customary international law – they are unlawful because states have long prohibited the practice as a matter of law.
It doesn’t matter whether or not the country has ratified a treaty on the subject. And, if it is wrong to torture or persecute someone, forcing someone to return to a place where they face these abuses is also unacceptable.”
Frelick said, “He [Rajnath Singh] could also have cited the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which prohibits the return of anyone to another country where there are the substantial risks of torture.
There are also other regional conventions and declarations that endorse the principle, such as the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights, and the 1966 Bangkok Principles on Status and Treatment of Refugees.”
Certain rules of customary international law are so important that no government can violate them even if a treaty existed that would allow them to do so, he maintained.