March 26, 2021
Shri Ram Nath Kovind
c/o Shri Kumar Samresh
Public Relations Officer, Museum
New Delhi 110004 India
Phone: 91 11 2301 5321
Dear President Kovind:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing in regard to Dr. Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba, an English professor from Delhi University who has been sentenced to life in prison for his human rights advocacy, and who has profound health concerns, including, earlier this month, testing positive for COVID-19. This could prove fatal for Dr. Saibaba who has several comorbidities that make him especially vulnerable.
Dr. Saibaba is confined to a wheelchair. He suffers from post-polio syndrome, and his health has deteriorated dramatically since his 2014 arrest. He has endured fevers, urinary pain and shooting pains in his left hand and leg, cardiac complications, hypertension, pancreatitis, and gallbladder stones. In January 2019, a doctor reported 19 serious health issues, but in March of that year, Dr. Saibaba was denied release on bail.
We first wrote to you about Dr. Saibaba in September 2018, calling then for his release. We reiterated that call in June of 2020 and today we call on your government to at least grant him medical parole so he can receive adequate care in a facility that can successfully treat him while accommodating his disability.
The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, revised and adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2015 as the Nelson Mandela Rules, states clearly that:
“The provision of health care for prisoners is a State responsibility. Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of healthcare that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.”
The rules also require that: “Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals.”
We urge your government to respect the Nelson Mandela Rules and release Dr. Saibaba so that he can receive necessary medical treatment, both for COVID-19 and for his other ailments.
Arrested in May 2014, Dr. Saibaba was convicted three years later, despite a lack of credible evidence, and sentenced to life in prison for “being a member of a terrorist gang or organization”. In fact, it appears that he is being punished for his academic and human rights work on behalf of vulnerable populations caught up in the conflict between the Communist Party of India and your government.
Dr. Saibaba’s conviction for peaceful human rights activity, and your government’s failure to provide him with adequate healthcare, are both unacceptable. Now that Dr. Saibaba has tested positive for COVID-19, it is a matter of life or death that your government take immediate action to see to it that he is released to a hospital that can care for him effectively.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Secretary of State
United States Government
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
H.E. Taranjit Singh Sandhu
Embassy of India
2107 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-939-7000/Fax: 202-265-4351
US Ambassador to India
U.S. Embassy – New Delhi
New Delhi 110021
Phone: 011 91 11 2419 0017