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HRW finds India's record tainted by violations

A world rights body spotlights abuses in Pak, Kenya and China, but finds India's record marred by continuing violations by security forces in counterinsurgency operations.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2008 09:58 IST

A world rights body has spotlighted abuses in Pakistan, Kenya and China, but finds India's record also marred by continuing violations by security forces in counterinsurgency operations and by armed militant groups.

Human Rights Watch in its 2008 report released Thursday also blames the US, European Union and other established democracies for undermining human rights worldwide "by allowing autocrats to pose as democrats, without demanding they uphold the civil and political rights that make democracy meaningful".

The report gives the example of Pakistan, where "President Pervez Musharraf has tilted the electoral playing field by rewriting the constitution and firing the independent judiciary", in the run up to the poll in mid February, the US and Britain, Islamabad's largest aid donors, have refused to link assistance to the government on improving pre-electoral conditions.

In India, Washington based Human Rights Watch blames the security agencies as well as the insurgents and terrorists for violations.

"Armed groups have been responsible for attacks on civilians, killings, torture, and extortion. In response, however, Indian security forces have repeatedly engaged in abusive tactics," its report says.

The report adds that despite signing a new UN treaty to combat forced disappearances in February 2007, "the Indian government is yet to launch a credible independent investigation into alleged disappearances and fake encounter killings throughout the country".

The report notes that violence in Kashmir has abated slightly, but police's own investigations into a missing persons case in Jammu and Kashmir in early 2007 revealed that "people were being killed in custody by security forces who constructed fake armed encounters, staging executions to look like acts of defence".

The report says Maoists have been very active in 2007 in several states. They have exploited vulnerable groups by imposing illegal taxes and demands for food and shelter. Succumbing to such extortion puts civilians at risk of retaliation by security forces.

"Violent attacks, whether perpetuated by the Maoists or security forces, take place in remote areas, making it difficult to independently monitor the situation," the report says.

On Punjab, the report says, there was still no progress in investigating thousands of secret cremations in 2007.

"Following a spate of violent attacks by Sikh militants starting in the early 1980s, security forces illegally detained, tortured, executed, or "disappeared" thousands of people during counterinsurgency operations. None of the security officials who bear substantial responsibility for these violations has been brought to justice," the report says.

There was also no progress in justice for victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, according to the report.

On Gujarat, the report says: "Despite national and international condemnation, the state government continues to protect those responsible for the killing of Muslims during the 2002 riots."

The report adds that though a special court convicted 100 people for their involvement in the 1993 serial bomb attacks in Mumbai, those believed responsible for attacks upon Muslims in January 1993 which preceded the bomb blasts are yet to be prosecuted and punished.

The report notes India's failure to actively promote democracy and human rights in response to crises in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh while it continued peace talks with Pakistan to settle Kashmir and other disputed issues.