Rights group urges India to reform Kashmir detention law

[JURIST] Hundreds of people are being held without charge or trial in India's northernmost state Kashmir and Jammu, according to a report [text, PDF] released by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Monday. AI reports that India's Public Safety Act (PSA) [text] is being used to detain people despite the absence of sufficient evidence for a trial. Over the last decade, between 8,000 and 20,000 people have been detained through the PSA, including 322 between January and September 2010. The PSA only applies to Kashmir and Jammu, a state that has been rife with unrest since it became part of India in the middle of the 20th century. People detained under the PSA can be held for up to two years, but AI notes that the successive orders are often issued, resulted in detentions that exceed two years. In addition, AI claims that the detainees do not have effective legal recourse to challenge their detention and are sometimes subjected to ill-treatment and torture. AI's Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi said:

The use of administrative detention does not conform to international human rights legal obligations and agreements that the Indian government is a party to. The Indian government must ensure that Jammu and Kashmir authorities repeal the PSA and end the odious system of administration detention once and for all.
AI is calling on India's government and the local government in Kashmir and Jammu to carry out an independent, impartial and comprehensive investigation into allegations of abuses against detainees and their families, including allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, denial of visits and medical care, making its findings public and holding those responsible to account.

Kashmir and Jammu, which is officially part of India, has been disputed [BBC backgrounder] between Pakistan and India since 1947. Claims by both Pakistan and India to the territory have resulted in several conflicts in the region, particularly the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1947-1948 and 1965. In addition, there was a large show of military force by both nations in the region in 2002 that caused international alarm because both nations have nuclear weapons. India has sought to stifle unrest and a burgeoning separatist movement in the region by detaining human rights and political activists.

 

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