NHRC notice to the Secretary (CPV), Ministry of External Affairs, and D.G. Shipping over stranded Indian seafarers in Chinese waters (01.01.2021)

New Delhi, Dated 01st January, 2020

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of media reports on stranded Indian sailors onboard MV Anastasia and MV Jag Anand in Chinese waters for over 146 days and their difficulties without any rescue mission in sight. It has observed that the contents of media reports, if true, amount to violation of human rights.

Accordingly, the Commission has issued notices to the Secretary (CPV), Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and to the Director General, Shipping, Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, calling for reports in the matter, including action taken for release/discharge of the seafarers of MV Anastasia and MV Jag Anand, stranded in Chinese waters.

The Commission also expects that the Ministry of External Affairs may take up the issue with the authorities, through Indian Embassy in People’s Republic of China, so as to ensure immediate relief and security of the stranded Indian seafarers with promptitude. The response is expected within two weeks.

Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that the media reports, also give a very sordid picture of lack of promptness from the side of the authorities established under the law not enabling the Indian seafarers and crew members of MV Anastasia and MV Jag Anand, to return back to the country, resulting unfathomable anxiety and uncertainty on their release or discharge from the Chinese waters. This incongruity warrants the Commission to step in to protect and promote human rights of these citizens of the country, whose rights have been challenged and threatened. It is the duty of the appropriate authority to initiate the rescue mission at the earliest but the news report is not giving very inspiring information to that extent.

The Commission has further observed that prima facie, it appears that the rights to life, dignity, equality and liberty of Indian seafarers have been trampled down by a Member nation of United Nations in derogation of international human rights law and International Covenants applicable in the field of human rights.

It has noted that the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaims that Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 recognizes inherent dignity, equality and inalienable rights of all members of human family and these are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Article 2 of the Declaration postulates, everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedom set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Similarly, it says no distinction shall be made on the basis of political jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty. Similarly, Article 3 of the Declaration explicitly guarantees everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Long after that, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the General Assembly, on 16th December, 1966, wherein Article 9 no uncertain terms speaks that everyone has the right to liberty and security to person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention, in as much as, no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as established by law.

According to the media reports, the cargo ship has been stranded in Chinese waters along with another carrier, MV Jag Anand, which is stuck off at Jingtang port since June, 2020. The news report also informs that the arrival of these ships coincided with an escalating altercation between China and Australia. China has, reportedly, said this is only because of ‘epidemic prevention’ measures, but the ships from Russia, Canada and Europe were allowed to off load and leave. Even, the crew members of both the cargo ships have not set foot on land for months. It is also reported that their food had sufficed but the water is contaminated leading to skin infections to many of the crew members on board. Proper medical facilities are also not available to the crew members and it is informed by the chartering agent of the cargo ships that the doctor can visit only when someone is dying. The news reports also mentions about the appeal of crew members to release them on humanitarian grounds.