‘Torture, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions persist in many parts of the country’

Human rights violations in India occur largely due to ineffective institutional mechanisms and lack of political will to enforce the law, according to a report released by Amnesty International.

The India chapter of the international NGO’s 2013 report says that ‘torture, extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody and arbitrary detentions’ persisted in many parts of the country.

It has noted with particular concern the hanging of terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab in November 2012, which ended an eight-year hiatus of the death sentence — the last judicial execution in India was in 2004.

Within weeks of Kasab’s hanging, Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s mercy petition was rejected by the President and he was hanged in February 2013. Since the two executions, there has been furious debate on the merits of the death penalty.

According to the organisation, 2012 saw as many as 78 persons being sentenced to death, taking the number of people on death row to over 400. India had voted against the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 67/176 adopting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

The report also focuses on violence against women, sexual offences, and the nationwide furore triggered by the brutal gang-rape-and-murder in the heart of the capital city by five men and a juvenile in December 2012. The incident had led to widespread campaigning for a societal change in the mindset and perception towards rape victims.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, was passed following the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. The report said that although the law has been modified, blatant violations have continued due to ineffectual institutions that clog the justice delivery system.

Amnesty laments that while India voted in favour of the United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) Resolution 19/2 — for putting pressure on Sri Lanka to address the alleged human rights violations in its civil war — it did not accept the recommendations of U.N. Universal Periodic Review conducted in May, which recommended a visit by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

The report said India should not have opposed the visit by the Special Rapporteur as it could have served as a confidence-building measure and alleviated tensions over alleged rights violations by armed forces personnel in J&K and the north-eastern States.

The report sought also to highlight the selective enforcement of laws — it cited the booking of 50 persons, who protested peacefully against the commissioning of the Kudankulam power plant in Tamil Nadu, under sedition laws and for “waging war against the state”.

It also noted that there had been several incidents of politicians abusing Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested by Mumbai police in September 2012 for publishing a series of cartoons depicting India’s national symbols in a poor light, as part of an anti-corruption protest. In October, Ravi Srinivasan was held by Puducherry police for tweeting about allegations of corruption involving Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son. In November, two women, Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan, were arrested by Mumbai police for appearing to question, in Facebook, the calling of a citywide bandh in honour of deceased Bal Thackeray.

According to the report, human rights violations were pervasive across South Asia — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan too faced similar allegations of violence against women, enforced disappearances, abuses by armed groups, communal and ethnic violence and a failure to endorse freedom of expression.

In Pakistan, particularly, several journalists have been brutally murdered and gender-centric violence is predominant with several women rights activists having been assassinated. Religious minorities continued to face discrimination and communal violence targeted not only Hindus and Christians but also the minority Shias.

The Pakistani Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Balochistan Liberation Army and other armed groups targeted security forces and carried out unsystematic attacks using explosive devices and suicide bombs.

The report says Sri Lanka has continued to use excessive force in spite of the UNHRC resolution condemning it for rights violations.

The report indicted officials in the Sri Lankan government for threatening defenders of human rights, members of the judiciary and journalists.

  • Amnesty report focuses on offences against women, use of death penalty

  • “India shouldn’t have opposed proposed visit by U.N. Special Rapporteur”