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India cabinet approves anti-torture bill

[JURIST] The Cabinet of India has approved the Prevention of Torture Bill [text, PDF] in an effort to move closer to international human rights standards. The bill, which experienced long delays before being passed [Times of India report] last week, will now be introduced to the Indian Parliament [official website]. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] strongly supports the bill in order to move the country closer to complying with the UN Convention Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text, PDF] by expanding Indian law to define torture, among other things. India remains among the small number of nations that has not ratified the treaty. The bill was introduced more than a year before it was passed. Many Cabinet members feared political backlash, as the public strongly supports actions taken against terrorists. Despite the passing of the bill, human groups believe [Globe and Mail report] that India still has a long way to go to prevent torture in the country.

Last month, an Indian court heard closing arguments [JURIST report] in the trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab [NDTV backgrounder], accused of participating in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Kasab claims that he confessed to the crimes in February 2009 after being tortured [Hindu report] by police. In December, Kasab withdrew [JURIST report] his confession in an Indian court, claiming he was tortured and framed by police. Kasab originally pleaded not guilty in May, but interrupted his trial in July to confess and change his plea to guilty [JURIST reports].

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