South Asia

Amnesty International criticises 'tough' Kashmir law

Indian police passing-out parade at near Srinagar on 13 January 2011
Image caption Kashmir security forces are accused of abusing the Public Safety Act

Rights group Amnesty International has criticised a tough Indian law which it says has been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Amnesty urged India to scrap the Public Safety Act (PSA) which allows detention for up to two years without charge.

The group also criticised the judiciary for its failure to protect human rights of the detainees.

Kashmir has been gripped by a violent separatist insurgency since 1989.

Corrrespondents say the Indian government does not comment on reports by international rights groups.

The detentions have been made since the beginning of the insurgency, Amnesty says in a new report released in Srinagar on Monday.

Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act documents how the law is used to secure long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial.

"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," said Amnesty campaigner Bikramjeet Batra.

"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," he added.

The report says the 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 "unofficial" interrogation during which time they have no access to a lawyer or their families.

Even minors are being held under the law, the report says.

Amnesty International called upon the government of Jammu and Kashmir to repeal the law and end the system of detentions.

It also urged the government to release all detainees or charge those suspected of committing criminal acts with recognised offences and try them fairly in a court of law.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed in full by both.

The region is also one of most militarised in the world, with hundreds of thousands of troops present on both sides of the Line of Control - the de facto border dividing the territory.

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