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What is an Osman warning, and why are Sikhs in UK receiving it?

Sikhs in the United Kingdom reportedly received "threat to life" warnings from authorities due to growing concerns about the safety of separatist campaigners, who Sikhs claim are being targeted by the Indian government. 

What is an Osman warning, and why are Sikhs in UK receiving it?
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First Published Jan 17, 2024, 9:53 AM IST

Authorities in the United Kingdom issued "threat to life" warnings to Sikhs, expressing concern over the safety of separatist campaigners whom Sikhs allege are being targeted by the Indian government, local media reports have said. Reports highlighted West Midlands police issuing Osman warnings to three members of a family months ago, indicating intelligence regarding a potential death threat or risk of murder, though insufficient evidence for an arrest. The warnings were not accompanied by details about their issuance.

Speculation surrounds a high-profile case, possibly involving Indian national Nikhil Gupta in the United States, linked to an alleged plot against Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, designated a terrorist by India. Additionally, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has suggested a "potential link" between Indian government agents and the assassination of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. 

When contacted, a spokesperson for West Midlands police said that they received information indicating a potential risk to a family, leading to the issuance of warnings and the provision of advice in line with their duty of care.

What is an Osman warning?

Osman warning refers to a legal warning provided by the police to an individual who is believed to be at risk of being harmed by someone else. The warning is named after a legal case, Osman v. United Kingdom, which was brought before the European Court of Human Rights in 1998.

In the Osman case, the court ruled that the authorities have a duty to take preventive action to protect individuals from known threats. If law enforcement becomes aware of a credible threat to an individual's life and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent it, they may be held liable for a breach of the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Osman warning is essentially a formal notification to the potential victim, informing them of the threat to their life and advising them to take precautions. It serves as both a legal requirement for law enforcement to fulfil their duty to protect individuals and a practical measure to alert individuals to potential dangers.

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