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Explained: What is the UN body that has criticised India for new citizenship Act?

In a press release issued on December 13, the UN human rights body said: “A new law in India which expedites citizenship for certain religious minorities has been criticized by the UN human rights office for being “fundamentally discriminatory in nature.”

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 17, 2019 12:01:02 pm
The new citizenship Act seeks to grant citizenship to individuals who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, or Parsi who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan by the cut-off date of December 31, 2014. (Express file photo by Dasarath Deka)

The office of the United Nations Human Rights posted a critical message for India on Twitter on December 13: “#India: We are concerned that the new #CitizenshipAmendmentAct is fundamentally discriminatory in nature. Goal of protecting persecuted groups is welcomed, but new law does not extend protection to Muslims, including minority sects: http://ow.ly/PYQC50xzfD9 #FightRacism #CABProtests.”

The new citizenship Act seeks to grant citizenship to individuals who are Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, or Parsi who entered India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan by the cut-off date of December 31, 2014.

On Friday, the Trump administration urged India to “protect the rights of its religious minorities” in keeping with its “Constitution and democratic values”.

What has the UN said about the Citizenship Amendment Act?

In a press release issued on December 13, the UN human rights body said: “A new law in India which expedites citizenship for certain religious minorities has been criticized by the UN human rights office for being “fundamentally discriminatory in nature.”

Jeremy Laurence, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was quoted in the statement as saying, “Although India’s broader naturalization laws remain in place, these amendments will have a discriminatory effect on people’s access to nationality”.

Laurence added that the legislation appears to undermine India’s commitment to equality before the law, something that is protected by the Constitution.

While commenting on protecting persecuted groups, the OHCHR said that while it welcomes protecting such groups, it should be done through a “robust” asylum system that is based on equality and non-discrimination, “which applies to all people regardless of race, religion, national origin or other status.”

What is the UN Human Rights organisation, and what does it do?

The UN Human Rights is the UN’s leading entity on human rights that is currently being led by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

The stated mission of the OHCHR is to work for the protection of “all human rights for all people; to help empower people to realize their rights; and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights in ensuring that they are implemented.”

OHCHR’s work is guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent human rights instruments, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, and the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

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