Stan Swamy

Name: Stan Swamy (formally: Stanislaus Lourduswamy)

Country/Area of Origin: India

Background: Father Stan Swamy was a renowned Jesuit priest and respected activist for human rights for marginalized the Adivsasi tribal community

Reason for Arrest:

On 8 October 2020, then 83-year-old Father Swamy was arrested and charged with being a member of a former organization that was accused of instigating violence during the 2018 Bhima Koregaon incident, though Father Swamy was not even in Pune, the location of the incident, when it occurred. He was also falsely accused of being a Maoist sympathizer and attempting to overthrow the Indian government. Father Swamy was formally arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a legislation that has been routinely used to target activists, independent journalists, and religious freedom/human rights leaders for alleged ‘seditious’ activities.

Father Swamy’s advocacy centered on fighting for land rights, labor rights, “fair compensation and justice” for the Adivasi tribal communities, who India does not formally recognize as indigenous and routinely marginalizes. Father Swamy is also the founder of the Persecuted Prisoners’ Solidarity Committee to offer legal assistance to Adivasi prisoners.

Father Swamy remained imprisoned at Taloja Prison, Mumbai, until his death and was repeatedly denied bail despite suffering multiple illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease, hearing loss, lumbar spondylosis, two former hernia operations, and he had fallen a handful of times while detained.

Latest Updates:

  • On 5 July 2021, it was confirmed that Father Stan Swamy had passed away of COVID-19. Multiple organizations have since released statements condemning the Indian government’s treatment and persistent imprisonment of Father Swamy:
    • “Father Stan Swamy’s death is a stark reminder of the egregious and ongoing persecution of India’s religious minority communities. USCIRF consistently spoke out when Father Swamy was arrested and denied bail, especially considering the rapid deterioration of his health as he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and contracted COVID-19 while in prison, and was not given any support from prison officials. We urge the United States to hold the Indian government accountable and to raise religious freedom concerns in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship.” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza
    • “USCIRF is deeply saddened and appalled by the death of 84-year-old Jesuit priest Stan Swamy. For years, he fought for the rights and dignity of low-caste and poor people across India. Father Swamy died in the custody of Indian authorities who targeted him for giving voice to the human rights concerns of Adivasis and other low-caste, religious and poor communities. The Indian government held him for these past months, without any trial or conviction, despite lack of credible evidence on the charges filed against him, his deteriorating health, and global calls for his release.” – USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava
    • “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of 84-year-old Father Stan Swamy, a human rights defender and Jesuit priest, in Mumbai yesterday, following his arrest in October 2020 under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). […] High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet and the UN’s independent experts have repeatedly raised the cases of Father Stan and 15 other human rights defenders associated with the same events with the Government of India over the past three years and urged their release from pre-trial detention. The High Commissioner has also raised concerns over the use of the UAPA in relation to human rights defenders, a law Father Stan was challenging before Indian courts days before he died.” […] We stress, once again, the High Commissioner’s call on the Government of India to ensure that no one is detained for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association.” – Liz Throssell, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • “ICJ and seven other international human rights organizations are deeply saddened by the detah in custody of Fr. Stan Swamy, 84 year-old Jesuit priest and human rights defender, on 05 July 2021. […] His death in custody, and the continued incarceration of other defenders is a tragic indictment of India’s human rights record, and of the global community’s human rights commitments. […] This must be a wake-up call for the international community to finally put human rights at the centre of all aspects of their bilateral relationship with India. […] We continue to stand in solidarity with Stan Swamy and we call for full accountability for his death. His spirit, courage and kindness will not be forgotten and will continue to inspire.” – Amnesty International, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Front Line Defenders, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Dalit Solidarity Network, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  • On 4 July 2021, it was revealed that Father Swamy was placed on a ventilator was in critical condition.
  • On 17 June 2021, the High Court announced that Father Swamy would remain in prison until 5 July, as his medical conditions require his sojourn in the ICU.
  • On 29 May 2021, after suffering dropping blood pressure and weakness, the Bombay High Court permitted Father Swamy to be transferred from Taloja Central Jail to the Holy Family Hospital. During the court hearing regarding his possibility for transfer, Swamy explained “I am eating less and less and my co-accused are worried about me. I would prefer to suffer and die like this in Taloja jail than being admitted to JJ Hospital. It will not improve, it will keep going. Only one thing that I would request the judiciary is to consider for interim bail. That is my only request.” Father Swamy was transferred to the private Holy Family Hospital and tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On 4 May 2021, the High Court directed the state of Maharashtra to file a medical report regarding Father Swamy’s condition by 15 May.
  • On 26 April 2021, Father Swamy spent his 84th birthday in prison. In london, members of the Jesuit mission visited the High Commission of India to call for his swift release.
  • On 22 March 2021, Special Judge Dinesh E. Kothalikar rejected Father Swamy’s bail application, stating that Swamy and others “hatched a serious conspiracy to create unrest in the entire country and to overpower the Government, politically and by using muscle power. […] There will be no hesitation to conclude that the collective interest of the community would outweigh Swamy’s right to personal liberty and as such the old age and or alleged sickness, of the applicant would not go in his favor. I conclude that the applicant has failed to make out a case for grant of bail.”
  • On 25 January 2021, Father Swamy was announced the recipient of the 2020 Mukundan C. Menon Award by the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO).
  • In November 2020, due to Father Swamy’s Parkinson’s disease-induced tremors, he requested a sipper and a straw so he could have beverages in prison. Father Swamy was eventually given a sipper and a straw.