The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has condemned the “premature and unwarranted” release of 11 defendants in the gang rape of Bilquis Bano and the murder of members of his family during the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
USCIRF Vice President Abraham Cooper said, “USCIRF strongly condemns the early and wrongful release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims. during the 2002 riots in Gujarat”.
The accused’s swift release was called a ‘travesty of justice’ by USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck, who said it was part of a ‘pattern of impunity’ in India for those involved in the violence against religious minorities.
“The failure to hold accountable the perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots who committed physical and sexual violence is a travesty of justice. This is part of a pattern of impunity in India for those who engage in violence against religious minorities,” USCIRF tweeted citing Schneck.
It comes after 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case were released under Gujarat’s immunity policy when sentenced in 2008.
The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15.
Bano later released a statement criticizing the decision. In a statement released on his behalf by his lawyer Shobha, Bano said no one inquired about his safety and well-being before taking “such an important and unfair decision”, and called on the Gujarat government to “repair this evil” and to restore his right to “live without fear and in peace”.
Family members of Bilkis Bano were attacked by a mob in Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district during the post-Godhra riots March 3, 2002. Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time- there, was gang-raped and seven of her family members were killed.
In a separate statement, the All India Democratic Women’s Association condemned the action, calling it “scandalous and shocking”. “On a day when the Prime Minister was stressing the need to protect women from crimes, the BJP government of Gujarat decided to release those convicted of brutal gang rape and murder. It sets a bad precedent that crimes against Muslims can be committed with virtual impunity and without any accountability. »