Imphal: Citizens Committee Manipur (CCM) has welcomed the historic judgment of the High Court of Manipur upholding the human rights of seven Myanmar nationals, who entered India secretly amid the military coup in their country, to travel to New Delhi and seek protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to CCM, the seven Myanmar citizens, including three journalists, fled their country after the military coup in February this year and took shelter at Moreh in Manipur’s Tengnoupal district. They were brought to Imphal as per an order of the high court on April 20.

“Even though India is not a party to the UN Refugee Conventions, the judgment insisted India is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966). The far-reaching and myriad protection afforded by Article 21 of our Constitution, as interpreted and adumbrated by our Supreme Court time and again, would indubitably encompass the right of non-refoulment,” said CCM convenor Babloo Loitongbam.

“Non-refoulment” is the principle under international law that a person fleeing from persecution from his own country should not be forced to return.

CCM also applauded the courage and determination of human rights advocate Nandita Haksar and her husband Sebastian Hongray who have selflessly invested time, financial resources and energy to defend the rights of the asylum seekers.

It further stated that CCM continues to be deeply concerned about the plight of the other Myanmar nationals taking shelter in the bordering villages of Manipur without any support and protection other than the hospitality and warmth of the poor villagers.

According to the committee, in the last two weeks, the generous residents of Manipur responded with utmost magnanimity to the appeal of the Humanitarian Sub-Committee of CCM.

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This has made it possible to reach some basic needs such as food, clothing, medicine, and utensils in four villages in Kamjong district, three villages in Tengnoupal district and three villages in Churachandpur district covering more than five hundred refugees. But this local private humanitarian effort is grossly inadequate to meet the growing needs on the ground, laments Loitongbam.

CCM also urged the government of Manipur and the Centre to take the constitutional and human rights obligations and protect the hapless persons more seriously in line with the judgment pronounced by the high court on Monday.

They should also consider giving unhindered access to the UNHCR to offer their mandated humanitarian services, it added.

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