By TwoCircles.net, Staff Reporter
Srinagar: Taking note of crackdown on protesters in Kashmir during the ongoing unrest, three global prominent watchdogs–Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and International Commission of Jurists–have issued a joint statement in which it has asked the state and central government to stop the wrongful detention of protesters in the state.
Specifically asking for an end to the use of Public Safety Act (PSA), the law which has often been used to detain people on vague grounds for long periods ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards, the human rights watchdogs have called for end to arbitrarily detaining of people, including children.
The PSA violates international due process standards and should be repealed, the groups said.
Importantly, in last three months of unrest more than 7,000 people have been arrested whereas more than 450 people have been slapped with Public Safety Act.The raids across Kashmir are still going on to arrest the people and curb the three month long deadly unrest in which more than 90 people have died and thousands injured.
“The use of the PSA to detain people, particularly children, violates a range of human rights, and its increasing use in recent weeks undermines the rule of law and further entrenches impunity in Kashmir,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Director.
“Police should end the use of the PSA; if people are suspected of committing offences, they should be properly charged and given fair trials.”
Following an amendment in 2012, the PSA expressly prohibits the detention of anyone under 18.
On 16 September, Rayees Ahmad Mir, who is 16 years old according to his school records, was arrested in Baramulla district under ordinary criminal procedure for allegedly throwing stones at security forces. Two days later, an executive official passed an order to detain him under the PSA, to preclude his release on bail. The order incorrectly stated that he was 18 years old.
Rayees Mir’s family challenged the order before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, producing documents that proved he was only 16. On 7 October, the court stated that Rayees Mir should be treated according to juvenile justice rules, as there was prima facie evidence that he was a minor, and ordered his transfer to a juvenile home. The PSA detention order has not yet been quashed.
“In a number of cases the families have not been informed about the grounds of detention. Arresting minors and booking them under PSA is definitely going to have an effect on their psyche. From schools and colleges, these boys end up in jails where they will be kept together with adults. It is definitely going to have an adverse effect on them.” Mir Shafqat Hussain, a lawyer representing many PSA detainees, was quoted as saying by the group statement.
On 18 August, Waheed Ahmed Gojree, who is 16 according to his school records, was arrested in Kupwara district and detained at a police station.
“The government has a responsibility to address violence during protests, but indefinitely detaining people without charge only adds to the lawlessness,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch.
“Detaining children under the PSA is not only unlawful, but could have negative repercussions for years,” she added.
Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and the ICJ have called for people detained under the PSA, either be charged promptly with a recognizable criminal offence or prosecuted in a fair trial, or else be released.
“The central and state governments have spoken about following the principle of insaniyat, or humanity, in dealing with the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India. “But detaining children under the PSA is neither humane nor lawful.”