Custodial violations a betrayal of Kashmiris: Activists

December 17th, 2010 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) Custodial violations in Kashmir are a betrayal of the hopes and sentiments of the people of Kashmir and the guilty should be punished, rights activists said Friday reacting to US diplomatic cables about alleged custodial abuse of detainees in Kashmir disclosed by WikiLeaks. “After the series of violence in Kashmir this year, the youth were blamed again and again. This expose on human rights violations clearly shows why their faith in the authorities and the government doesn’t exist anymore,” social activist Swami Agnivesh told IANS.

British daily Guardian Friday said the cables released by WikiLeaks have revealed that US diplomats were secretly briefed by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) staff about the use of electrocution, beatings, sexual humiliation and other methods of systematic abuse against hundreds of detainees in Kashmir in 2005.

The revelations come at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year, the daily said.

“If the ICRC has also been noticing such violations, and the Indian government is also aware about it, then the guilty must be punished,” added Swami Agnivesh.

“The need is to find a possible solution to the anger of Kashmiri youth, who have been demanding freedom. You can’t blame them or a ‘foreign hand’ anymore,” he said.

The most highly charged dispatch is likely to be an April 2005 cable from the US embassy in Delhi which reports that the ICRC had become frustrated with the Indian government which, it said, had not acted to halt the “continued ill-treatment of detainees”.

The embassy reported that the ICRC concluded that India “condones torture” and that the torture victims were civilians as militants were routinely killed.

“This is nothing new for the human rights situation in the country, though the government can claim to be naive. Custodial violations have created a deep mistrust for the police force among the people in conflict and insurgency-prone zones,” Pushkar Raj, general secretary of People’s Union for Civic Liberties, told IANS.

“Kashmir has always been the centre of such violations. And this revelation strictly calls for a stringent anti-torture bill that prevents such custodial violations from happening,” Raj added.

ICRC’s approach of engaging directly with the government was a feasible method to reach out to the victims of torture, said activists.

“If the ICRC does not engage with the government at the direct level, then it might not be even allowed to work properly in conflict areas,” said Raj.

The daily said that the ICRC has a long-standing policy of engaging directly with governments and avoiding the media, so the briefing remained secret.

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