Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged India to address widespread violations within its borders and serve as a role model in promoting human rights regionally and internationally.

The global independent organisation, which had the first meeting of its international board here, said if India took care of HR issues in its land, it would have the authority to address the most serious problems affecting the region.

Briefing journalists on Wednesday, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth wanted the Centre to raise human rights issues more forcefully in its foreign policy — such as the Myanmar junta’s treatment of political prisoners and the Sri Lankan government’s continued detention of 2.5 lakh civilians after the civil war — and to engage actively on rights issues in the United Nations, both in the General Assembly in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“India’s global leadership on human rights is increasingly necessary to counteract the negative role played by other powerful states. With India’s powerful democratic traditions, strong courts, and active civil society, the country should take steps to improve its own human rights policies and practices,” Mr. Roth said.

On complaints of HR violations in anti-terror operations in Kashmir, anti-naxal operations in some States and anti-insurgency operations in the northeast, he said the principle of law should always prevail. The government should revoke repressive laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and reform the security forces including the police. “Priority should be given to the protection of vulnerable groups including Dalits, religious minorities and women.”

‘Force as last resort’

To a question, HRW Director (Asia) Brad Adams said his organisation would watch out for any human rights violation when the government launched its massive anti-naxal operations next month. He said force should be used against Maoists only as a last resort, and as far as possible, security personnel should try to arrest them under the law.

On the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission, a constitutional body, Mr. Adams regretted that it often seemed to be depending on government policies and though a powerful organisation, it took quite a long time to dispose of cases.

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