Laws in India-Occupied Kashmir allowing imprisonment for up to two years without charge or trial violate national and global justice, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
Since an anti-India Insurgency erupted in the heavily militarized territory three decades ago, thousands of people have been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Amnesty said in a new report that the PSA “circumvents the criminal justice system in Jammu and Kashmir to undermine accountability, transparency and respect for human rights.” It “violate[s] Indian and international human rights laws” and contributes to inflaming tensions between the state authorities and locals, said Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty International India.
The 44-page report analyses cases of 210 detainees between 2012 and 2018. In 70 percent of the cases, imprisoned persons faced both PSA detentions and criminal proceedings in parallel on the basis of the same or similar allegations, Amnesty said.
Prominent activist Masarat Alam remains in jail under the law despite courts quashing 38 detention orders against him. “The police appear to use the PSA as a safety net, using it to secure the detention of suspects who are released, or likely to be released, on bail,” said Zahoor Wani, who led the research. “Conversations with local lawyers suggest that the state police do not favor criminal proceedings as they involve a higher standard of proof and a presumption of innocence.”
The PSA law was initially brought in more than four decades ago to deal with timber smugglers, but since 1989—when an armed rebellion against Indian rule began—its use has widened.
Amnesty had been due to hold a press conference to publish the report in Srinagar on Wednesday, but cancelled after police, citing security concerns, said the group did not have permission. Amnesty nonetheless circulated the report to journalists and put it up on its website.
Patel told AFP that copies of the report had been shared with police and the state government ahead of its scheduled release, but they had not responded.
On Wednesday there was no immediate comment from the authorities.
Rebel groups in India-Occupied Kashmir who are widely supported by residents have been fighting some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, seeking independence or a merger of the former kingdom with Pakistan. Rights groups say the fighting has left more than 70,000 people dead so far, most of them civilians.
Pakistan separately administers a part of Kashmir, divided between the rivals since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full. In June last year New Delhi rejected a U.N. report accusing India of using excessive force against residents and violating their human rights in recent years and calling for an international inquiry.