This article is published by New Europe, 15-12-2007

EU lawmaker hits India over garment workers rights

A United Kingdom MEP has urged the parliament to push the EU not to allow the extradition of seven human rights campaigners facing international arrest warrants from the Indian government, after they had spotlighted what they said were abuses in that country’s clothing industry.

MEP Richard Howitt (R) with Ineke Zeldenrust

MEP Richard Howitt, vice-chairman of the European Parliament Human Rights Sub- Committee, said the campaigners were the victims of a campaign themselves, from clothing manufacturer Fibre and Fabrics International (FFI) and its subsidiary Jeans Knits Pvt. Ltd (JKPL), who had filed a suit against them.

The suit was brought against the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) for their role in publicising reports of high work pressure, forced unpaid overtime, and physical and verbal abuse at their plants.

On December 1, the Magistrates Court in Bangalore requested the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs to execute arrest warrants, and call for extradition of the seven Dutch nationals, branding these activists as “international criminals” for raising human rights concerns. Documentation was handed over to the Home Affairs Ministry allowing it to implement the extradition request.

Speaking to a packed European Parliament chamber as part of a debate on Human Rights, Howitt, a member of the Socialist Group, said, “If these international arrest warrants are sanctioned by the Indian government it criminalises free speech and sends the message that human rights concerns cannot be raised without fear of persecution.

“I call on India not to give executive approval to the international arrest warrant, and I ask EU Member States to back the stance already taken by Holland and publicly declare that they will not extradite these people.”

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - January 14, 2008