Amnesty tells India to stop rights violations in Kashmir (Second Lead)

March 21st, 2011 - 12:09 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) Global watchdog Amnesty International has lashed out at India over alleged human rights violations in terror-riven Jammu and Kashmir and asked it to revoke a controversial law under which suspects are held in prison “for years without trial”.

A 70-page report released Monday focuses on the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), terming it a “lawless law”.

The report - the first on Jammu and Kashmir since 2000 - documents how authorities are using the act to detain people for years at a time, without trial, “depriving them of basic human rights otherwise provided under Indian law”.

“Estimates of the number detained under the PSA over the past two decades range from 8,000-20,000,” said the report.

Between January and September 2010, “322 people were reportedly detained under the controversial act that empowers district magistrates to detain people for up to two years for suspected offences ranging from anti-state activities to timber smuggling”.

The report is based on research conducted in May last year and “subsequent analysis of government and legal documents relating to over 600 individuals detained under the PSA between 2003 and 2010″.

“By using the PSA to incarcerate suspects without adequate evidence, India has not only gravely violated their human rights but also failed in its duty to charge and try such individuals and to punish them if found guilty in a fair trial.”

The report said that the state authorities “often implement this law in an arbitrary and abusive manner”.

It said that in many cases, the high court has quashed orders of detentions but the research “clearly shows that the authorities consistently thwart the court’s orders for release by re-detaining individuals under criminal charges and/or issuing further detention orders, thereby securing incarceration”.

Jammu and Kashmir has since 1989 witnessed a bloody separatist war - which India alleges is being sponsored by Pakistan and militant organisations there - during which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

The watchdog said that “Amnesty International acknowledges the right, indeed the duty, of the state to defend and protect its population from violence. However, this must be done while respecting the human rights of all concerned”.

It said: “India has so far chosen to ignore calls” to reform its “administrative detention system”.

The report said a police officer, justifying the detention system, told the Amnesty team: “What rights are you talking about? We are fighting a war, a cross-border war.”

Amnesty International has recommended that India

* Repeal the PSA and end practices of illegal and incommunicado detention and immediately put in place safeguards to ensure that those detained are brought promptly before a magistrate.

* Carry out an independent investigation into all allegations of abuses against those detained.

* Extend invitations and facilitate the visits of the UN officials and panels, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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