Posts Tagged ‘Meenakshi Ganguly’

Anger as Indian police who tortured terror suspects escape action

November 19, 2008

From November 18, 2008

Human rights activists today expressed outrage that Indian police officers responsible for , using methods including severe beatings and electric shocks, will not be prosecuted.

The failure to act against the officers comes despite the Andhra Pradesh state government’s admission that the 21 men, who were detained in the wake of a series of terror attacks in Hyderabad in May and August last year, had been tortured. The state later offered them about $600 each in compensation.

Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The government has to prosecute those responsible so that those who use torture will not get away with it.”

He added: “For a period of time, these detainees were effectively ‘disappeared’ persons. No one knew if they were dead or alive.”

On May 18, 2007, at least nine people were killed when a bomb exploded outside Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, where thousands had gathered for Friday prayers. On August 25, 2007, nearly 50 people died and scores were injured in two separate blasts in Hyderabad.

After interviewing those charged while they were still in jail awaiting trial, the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission reported that their injuries were “not self inflicted, these obviously arose during police custody – custodial atrocities on young detainees all minority persons stand proved”.

The Commission said that the detainees bore scars from violence, including some who showed signs of electric shocks.

The report escalated fears that India’s police force is losing credibility as it scrambles to clamp down on a burgeoning Islamist terror threat that has claimed at least 150 lives in a series of bomb attacks since May. Responsibility for the blasts has been claimed by the Indian Mujahedeen, a previously unknown group.

Doubts over police methods have been fanned by a proliferation of claimed “terrorist masterminds” as police forces across India react to political pressure to deliver swift justice in the wake of the Indian Mujahedeen’s rise.

In September, police in Bombay said they had cracked the terror group by arresting Sadiq Sheikh, who they claimed was the lynchpin behind an attack on Delhi on September 13 that claimed 22 lives. The capital’s force had already said Atif Ameen, a previously unknown 24-year-old college student who was gunned down by the Delhi police in October, had planned the crime.

Similarly, police in Jaipur said in August that a man called Shahbaz Hussain was behind an attack on the city that killed 80 people in May.

Delhi police now claim that Atif was. Last month, both Atif and Sadiq were linked to an attack in Ahmedabad which killed 45 people and which local police had said in August was “100 per cent solved”.

The tangle of competing police claims has triggered ridicule. Antara Dev Sen, editor of The Little Magazine, said: “We better get used to having several different ‘masterminds’ for the same crime as police teams of different states fall over each other to grab the limelight in fighting terror.”

Activists fear that ill-considered police tactics risk endangering innocent Muslims. In one incident that drew ridicule, police in Delhi presented three terror suspects to the media with their faces covered in red Arab-style keffiyah headdresses, which had been supplied by officials, rather than the plain cloth bags usually used to mask criminal suspects.

Mobashar Jawed Akbar, a senior Indian journalist, said: “Indian Muslims… knew that it was an attempt to stigmatize the whole community and link terrorism in India with… Osama bin Laden.”

The Andhra Pradesh minister for minorities’ welfare, Mohammad Shabbir Ali, who announced the compensation awards to the 21 torture victims, told the Indian Express last week that he does not want to blame the police because they “do their work based on information, and sometimes information can be wrong.”

India: Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act

August 19, 2008

50th Anniversary of Law Allowing Shoot-to-Kill, Other Serious Abuses

Source: Human Rights Watch

New York, August 18, 2008 – India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been used to violate fundamental freedoms for 50 years and should be repealed, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

" The Indian government’s responsibility to protect civilians from attacks by militants is no excuse for an abusive law like the AFSPA. Fifty years of suffering under the AFSPA is 50 years too long – the government should repeal the AFSPA now. "
Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Related Material

India: Order Kashmir Forces to Use Restraint
Press Release, August 13, 2008

More on human rights and India
Country Page

Getting Away With Murder: 50 years of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
Background Briefing, August 18, 2008

Human Rights Watch’s 16-page report, “Getting Away With Murder: 50 years of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,” describes how the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, has become a tool of state abuse, oppression, and discrimination. The law grants the military wide powers to arrest without warrant, shoot-to-kill, and destroy property in so-called “disturbed areas.” It also protects military personnel responsible for serious crimes from prosecution, creating a pervasive culture of impunity.

“The Indian government’s responsibility to protect civilians from attacks by militants is no excuse for an abusive law like the AFSPA,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Fifty years of suffering under the AFSPA is 50 years too long – the government should repeal the AFSPA now.”

Enacted on August 18, 1958 as a short-term measure to allow deployment of the army against an armed separatist movement in India’s northeastern Naga Hills, the AFSPA has been invoked for five decades. It has since been used throughout the northeast, particularly in Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. A variant of the law was also used in Punjab during a separatist movement in the 1980s and 90s, and has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990. Indian officials have long sought to justify use of the law by citing the need for the armed forces to have extraordinary powers to combat armed insurgents. Human Rights Watch said that abuses facilitated by the AFSPA, especially extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and “disappearances,” have fed public anger and disillusionment with the Indian state. This has permitted militant groups to flourish in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.

The AFSPA has not only led to human rights violations, but it has allowed members of the armed forces to perpetrate abuses with impunity. They have been shielded by clauses in the AFSPA that prohibit prosecutions from being initiated without permission from the central government. Such permission is rarely granted.

“Violations under the AFSPA have served as a recruiting agent for militant groups,” said Ganguly. “In both Kashmir and the northeast, we have heard over and over again that abuses by troops, who are never punished for their crimes, have only shrunk the space for those supporting peaceful change.”

Indians have long protested against the AFSPA. The Supreme Court has issued guidelines to prevent human rights violations, but these are routinely ignored. Since 2000, Irom Sharmila, an activist in Manipur, has been on hunger strike demanding repeal of the act. The government has responded by keeping her in judicial custody, force-fed through a nasal tube, and has ignored numerous appeals for repeal from activists in Jammu and Kashmir.

Following widespread protests after the 2004 murder in custody of an alleged militant called Manorama Devi in Manipur, the Indian government set up a five-member committee to review the AFSPA. The review committee submitted its report on June 6, 2005, recommending repeal of the act. In April 2007, a working group on Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the prime minister also recommended that the act be revoked. However, the cabinet has not acted on these recommendations because of opposition from the armed forces.

There has long been international criticism of the AFSPA. Over 10 years ago, in 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the “climate of impunity” provided by the act. Since then, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (2006), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2007) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2007), have all called for an end to the AFSPA.

Human Rights Watch said that the government should follow its own example when in 2004 the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repealed the widely abused Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). POTA was enacted soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and allowed security agencies to hold suspects for up to 180 days without charges. In practice, the law was often used against marginalized communities such as Dalits (so-called “untouchables”), indigenous groups, Muslims, and the political opposition.

“The Indian government acted with principle when it repealed the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act,” said Ganguly. “It must display the same courage now in repealing AFSPA.”

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