New Delhi (AP): Rights group Amnesty International attacked a draconian Indian law today which it said had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial in violence-hit Kashmir.
Amnesty urged India to scrap the Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows police to detain a person up to two years without charge or trial if he or she is deemed a threat to the state.
“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,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty?s Asia-Pacific director.
A new report from the group said up to 20,000 people had been held under the law since the start of an Islamist insurgency against Indian rule in the disputed territory in 1989.
Indian authorities detained hundreds of people each year without charge or trial in order to “keep them out of circulation”, it said.
In January, UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, also demanded a repeal of the law.
India’s rights record in Kashmir also came under scrutiny in December when leaked diplomatic cables said the International Committee of the Red Cross had evidence of systematic torture by Indian security forces.
The ICRC, according to the cables leaked by Wikileaks, told US diplomats in 2005 of 177 visits it had made to Kashmir detention centres that revealed “stable trend lines” of prisoner abuses.
The Amnesty’s new report called for “an independent, impartial and comprehensive investigation” into reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.
Rights groups and even Kashmir’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have also called for the repeal of a second piece of legislation in force in Kashmir that is used to combat insurgents.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act offers sweeping powers to soldiers and paramilitary forces to detain suspects without trial, seize property and open fire on suspects.
Kashmir, a Himalayan territory in northwest India, was rocked by street protests against Indian rule last summer that left 114 people dead — most shot by security forces.
The region is divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. It has triggered two of the three wars fought by the neighbours since independence in 1947.
According to an official count, 47,000 people have died in over two decades of rebellion against New Delhi’s rule.