|Date: 14 Jul 2008|
Washington DC, July 14: The Coalition Against Genocide campaign gained further momentum as a prominent US lawmaker and an internationally acclaimed human rights group joined the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in urging the US State Department for a visa ban on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) has asked for a repeat denial of visa to Narendra Modi. “In light of Mr. Modi’s long documented record of violations of religious freedom in India, I am writing to urge the Department of State to deny Mr. Modi a visa to enter the United States” said the letter dated July 8th 2008.
The letter also highlighted the many human rights abuses of Modi’s administration: “Since 2005, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has continued to violate the religious freedoms of not only Indian Muslims, but also Christians. Mr. Modi has used state police forces to routinely beat Christian pastors and priests and to conduct extra-judicial killings of Muslim youth. In addition, Mr. Modi has interfered with the safe return of more than 100,000 people displaced from 2002 riots”.
Congresswoman Betty McCollum is a senior Democratic whip of the House Democratic Caucus and a key figure in US foreign policy. She serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations and the House Oversight & Government Reforms Subcommittee on National Security & Foreign Affairs.
In another blow to Modi’s prospects of obtaining a US visa, an internationally acclaimed human rights group The Advocates for Human Rights also wrote a letter to the US State Department. The letter stated: “The violations of religious freedom in which Mr. Modi took part were of the gravest nature and his conduct falls precisely within that contemplated as ‘particularly severe violations’ by the International Religious Freedom Act.”. The letter further pointed out: “The evidence against Mr. Modi indicates that he is inadmissible to the United States under the provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act because as a foreign government official Mr. Modi was directly responsible in particularly serious violations of religious freedom. Denying Mr. Modi a visa to enter the United States not only will uphold the law but will send the important message that Mr. Modi’s reprehensible statements, policies and actions are abhorrent to the laws and values of the United States. We respectfully request that your Office once again deny Chief Minister Narendra Modi a visa to enter our country”.
The Advocates for Human Rights is an internationally recognized human rights organization specializing in investigative fact finding, direct legal representation, collaboration for education and training, and a broad distribution of publications.
Last week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom issued an advisory asking the US State Department to “reaffirm its past decision” and “once again announce Modi's ineligibility for a visa under the terms of the INA”.
"The inaction of Gujarat's government and police force in the face of severe violence against religious minorities is an inexcusable abuse of international human rights obligations," said Felice Gaer, the chairwoman of the USCIRF who also directs the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee.
Noted human rights activist Ms. Teesta Setalvad and retired Gujarat police official RB Sreekumar are also concluding a US lecture tour organized by members of the Coalition Against Genocide.
The Coalition Against Genocide includes a diverse spectrum of organizations and individuals in the United States and Canada that have come together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice.