Amidst a move by the central government to decriminalise attempt to suicide, international human rights body Amnesty on Tuesday appealed to the government to release Manipur’s ‘Iron Lady’ Irom Sharmila immediately and unconditionally.
“The Indian government’s decision to decriminalise suicide is in line with an increasing global trend. This move should lead to the immediate release of Irom Sharmila, who has been held in detention merely for exercising her freedom of expression in a peaceful manner,” said Shailesh Rai, programme director at Amnesty International India.
In a statement he said Sharmila should not have been arrested in the first place.
“Now that authorities have acknowledged that attempting to commit suicide should not be considered a crime, authorities in Manipur and Delhi should drop all charges against her, and start to engage with the issues this remarkable activist is raising,” he said.
42-year-old civil rights activist Sharmila has been held in detention in Manipur for over 14 years on repeated charges of attempted suicide. She has been on a hunger strike since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
The British Medical Association, in a briefing to the World Medical Association, has said that, “hunger strike is not equivalent to suicide. Individuals who embark on hunger strikes aim to achieve goals important to them but generally hope and intend to survive”.
This position is embodied by the World Medical Association in its Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers.