Rediff.com  » News » J&K government is holding hundreds without trial: Amnesty International

J&K government is holding hundreds without trial: Amnesty International

March 21, 2011 14:11 IST
The Jammu and Kashmir government 'is holding hundreds of people each year without charge or trial to keep them out of circulation,' alleged an Amnesty International report released in Srinagar on Monday.

Criticising the state authorities, the human rights organisation in its latest report has described the Public Safety Act, commonly used against separatists and suspects, as a 'lawless law'.

In its report 'A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act', the organisation documents how 'the PSA is used to secure the long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial'.

Few excerpts from the report

"Estimates of the number detained under the PSA over the past two decades range from 8,000-20,000, with around 322 reportedly held from January to September 2010 alone," the report says. "The Jammu and Kashmir authorities are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can't or won't convict through proper legal channels locked up and out of the way.

"Hundreds of people are being held each year on spurious grounds, with many exposed to higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment," it says. Detainees include political leaders and activists, suspected members or supporters of armed opposition groups, lawyers, journalists and protesters, including children. Often, they are initially picked up for an 'unofficial' interrogation, during which time they have no access to a lawyer or their families." 

"Over the past decade, there has been a marked decrease in the overall numbers of members of armed groups operating in the state. But in the last five years, there has been a resurgence of street protests. Despite this apparent shift in the nature of the unrest, state authorities continue to rely on the PSA rather than attempting to charge and try those suspected of committing actual crimes. The PSA undermines the rule of law and reinforces deeply held perceptions that police and security forces are above the law.

"Our research shows how the implementation of the PSA is often arbitrary and abusive, with many of those being held having committed no recognisably criminal acts. The Supreme Court has described administrative detention, including the PSA, as 'lawless law'.

"Those held under the PSA can face up to two years in detention. But the state authorities consistently thwart high court orders for the release of improperly detained individuals by issuing successive detention orders. Many detainees are thus trapped in a cycle of detention, and remain, in the words of one high-ranking Jammu and Kashmir official, 'out of circulation'.

"Those being held have no access to legal representation and cannot challenge their detention in any meaningful way. Once released, they cannot seek any redress or compensation for the wrongful detention they have endured and virtually never receive justice for the torture and ill-treatment.

"The use of administrative detention does not conform to international human rights legal obligations and agreements that the Indian government is a party to it," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director said. 

"The government must ensure that Jammu and Kashmir authorities repeal the PSA and end the odious system of administration detention once and for all," he added.

Suggestions by Amnesty International

• Repeal the PSA and end the system of administrative detention, releasing all detainees or charging those suspected of committing criminal acts with recognised offences and trying them fairly in a court of law.

• End illegal detentions and introduce safeguards ensuring those detained are charged promptly, have access to relatives, legal counsel and medical examinations and are held in recognised detention facilities pending trial.
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
SHARE THIS STORY