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Rights group accuses Indian security forces of human rights violations

The human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [PDF] on Tuesday accusing Indian security forces of committing human rights violations in response to terrorist attacks and urging reforms in the country's justice system. The report titled "The 'Anti-Nationals': Arbitrary Detention and Torture of Terrorism Suspects in India", accuses Indian security forces at all levels of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and religious discrimination in the aftermath of three deadly bombings of major Indian cities in 2008, for which the Indian Mujahideen [IDSA Backgrounder] took responsibility. The report also addresses the treatments of Hindu nationalists suspected to be responsible for a separate 2008 bombing. According to the report, suspected terrorists are labeled "anti-national", held without bail, often jailed without being registered and forced to give confessions to crimes. Lawyers who represent the suspected Muslim terrorists operate in an environment of open hostility, with several bar associations issuing instructions to their members to not represent the suspected terrorists. HRW also criticizes magistrates for not ordering independent investigations and ignoring the complaints of the suspected terrorists. The report takes aim at state and federal laws that facilitate the abuse of terrorism suspects. The Amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) [legislative materials] are criticized for vague definitions of terrorism, increased police powers and extending the pre-detention period for suspected terrorists to 180 days. HRW analogizes these amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, a law that was repealed in 2004 because it encouraged abuse. Among its many recommendations HRW urged Indian government at all levels to repeal unlawful provisions that encourage abuse, enact a Prevention of Torture Bill and investigate allegations of abuse by police.

The Indian government has faced both international and domestic criticism for its anti-terror laws. In December 2010, Amnesty International] criticized the guilty verdict for Binayak Sen [JURIST report] on charges of aiding rebels of the Naxalite Maoist rebellion [CFR Backgrounder]. In 2008, AI urged Indian President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil [official website] to reject [JURIST report] the UAPA Amendment of 2008. The bill, which came in response to the Mumbai terror attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Proponents of the UAPA have said that there are safeguards in place to make sure that the law is not misused. In 2006, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) [party website], alleged that the Mumbai train bombings [BBC report] were a fallout from [JURIST report] the country's Prevention of Terrorism Act, set aside by the incumbent United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2004.

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