AI Seeks PSA Repeal, Prisoners’ Release

J-K’s Lawless Law Repeal In State’s Competence: Kumar

Srinagar -  Asserting that the Public Safety Act (PSA) in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1978 was a “lawless law,” a 3-member team of Amnesty International, currently on 8-day visit to Kashmir, Wednesday expressed serious concern over the government’s alleged recalcitrance to repeal the law.

The team is led by program director for India, Shashi Kumar Vilaath, while two other members are: Ms Sunita and Rahila Narchoor. It is expected to make an on-the-spot assessment of human rights situation in the state due to the arrests and detentions without trial made under PSA, besides the conditions obtaining in jails.

Talking to KNS, Kumar and his team members said the Amnesty International was currently focused on the repeal of PSA even as other issues like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), custodial torture and deaths, enforced disappearances, rapes and discovery of unmarked graves and other forms of human rights violation across the state also needed to be addressed.

“To get the PSA repealed from the state is currently under AI’s focus. To detain a person on mere suspicion is a human rights violation and anyone detained thus must be produced before a court of law,” he said, adding India was a signatory to the treaty for protection of human rights and it was its duty to protect the rights in the country, including in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Supreme Court and the International Amnesty both have described the PSA as lawless law. In its report for 2011, the AI used the term of lawless law for the PSA and in 2012 it was a case of ‘continued lawless law.’ The AI is of the view that the law should be revoked which is within the competence of the state government,” Kumar said.

He said the state government had made some amendments in the Act after the release of the AI report for 2011 “because of which several precious lives had been saved, but these were not adequate as the enforcement of the law had left a negative impact on the people’s life. “There is an urgent need to repeal the law,” he said.

He advocated unconditional release of all those put behind bars on the basis of certain ideology, opinion and peaceful struggle for freedom, and demanded that all minor detainees should be released immediately. “Those arrested on mere suspicion should be released forthwith while the detainees must be provided adequate medical facilities,” he said.

Kumar said action needed to be taken against the officials allegedly involved in custodial torture of jail inmates. He urged the state government to ensure the protection of human rights of the inmates and not to create hurdles in the way of their members meeting them. “Detention after release or after the detentions are quashed by the courts has to be avoided,” he said, adding that a comprehensive probe should be undertaken in respect of those still under detention.

The team expressed satisfaction over the release of three minors from detention and said such detentions were as grave as custodial deaths and existence of unidentified graves.

However, the team clarified that the Amnesty International was engaged in investigating and reporting on human rights violation and making attempts to stop these. “Issuing any direction to the governments on such cases is outside its brief,” they said.

The team is likely to meet with the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, his ministerial colleagues and other mainstream politicians, as also the separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabbir Ahmad Shah. It will also interact with various human rights organizations and activists, civil society groups, and media persons.  

Soon after its arrival on Tuesday, the team met with the representatives of various sections of the society and victims and sufferers of human rights violations.

On Wednesday, noted human rights activist, Abdur Rauf Khan, met with the visiting AI team and apprised its members of various rights abuses in the state. He told the team those released after long periods of incarceration did not enjoy their civic rights while their families were also being denied their rights.

“Thousands of those released from jails are denied jobs in various government departments or institutions while the banks and other financing agencies are reluctant to extend their credit facilities to enable them start self-employment ventures. The state government and its security   agencies have made the life of those associated with freedom movement miserable and they are even denied the passports,” Khan told the team, adding that although the released persons had resumed their normal life, they did not enjoy the basic civil rights. (KNS)

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