Amnesty International on human rights and India
(Excerpts) -- 3 February 2003
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We are happy to give you the news that, after 10 years of difficult negotiations,
in November 2002 the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted
the text of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture,
which we sent you in our last mailing. As you know, the Optional Protocol
will help prevent acts of torture before they can occur. This represents
a new approach for UN human rights protection. It will establish a system
of regular visits to places of detention by an international body of experts,
complemented by sustained regular visits conducted by national visiting
bodies. The Optional Protocol was also formally adopted during the plenary
session of the UN General Assembly in December 2002. During that session
India abstained at the final vote, together with other 41 states.
The new treaty, however, was overwhelmingly supported by other governments,
with 127 states voting in favour. The protocol is open for signature and
ratification since February 2003. It will enter into force upon the 20th
ratification. At the moment, unfortunately, there are no indications that
the Government of India will ratify it. This means that system of regular
visits to places of detention by an international body of experts and
by national visiting bodies will not be extended to India for the time
India continues to have a number of overdue reports to be submitted to
the UN treaty bodies, including the one to the Convention for the Elimination
of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to the Convention on Elimination
of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to the Human Rights Committee,
and to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. India's
report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child has recently been
As you will remember, the UN treaty bodies - consisting of independent
members who are elected by those governments that are parties to the treaty
- have the role of overseeing the implementation of a human rights treaty
and therefore request regular reports from all states parties to seek
information about measures put in place by them to implement the provisions
of the treaty, You can find more information on the aims and functions
of the UN treaty bodies and on the calendar of India's reports to them
at the website http://www.amnesty.org/treatybodies.
The United Nations has begun drafting an international treaty for the
protection of all persons against enforced disappearance. Under the auspices
of the UN Commission on Human Rights, an intergovernmental working group
charged with drafting the treaty held its first annual session in Geneva
on 6-17 January 2003. The working group is working on the basis of several
texts including the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons
from Enforced Disappearance and a 1998 draft convention prepared by the
then UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection
of Minorities. The 1998 draft establishes strong preventive safeguards,
provides for universal jurisdiction for perpetrators of enforced disappearance,
and provides for an international monitoring body which could hear individual
cases and intervene to try to trace "disappeared" persons. The
proposed treaty is strongly supported by France and the Latin American
and Caribbean countries.
Most other states have not yet taken a position. India did not express
a formal position during the first session, but its position is likely
to be negative, as India voted against the establishment of the working
group at the UN Commission on Human Rights in 2001.
You may be informed that between 2 and 7 January 2003 the Asia Social
Forum (ASF) was held in Hyderabad. The ASF is a new and open platform
for debate and interaction to people's movements opposing globalisation
and coming together around the question "is another world possible?"
It draws inspiration from a similar event, the World Social Forum, held
annually at Porto Alegre in Brazil. During the ASF over 15,000 people
from over 40 countries participated, a very large majority being from
India, There were on an average 40 seminars and workshops every day. It
was a rich discussion on themes ranging from environmental concerns to
definition and negation of identities by the post-colonial State, impact
of globalisation on marginalised communities and Dalits, women's issues,
population politics, food security, militarization, debt, communalism
and conflicts in West and Central Asia.
The Forum was concluded with a 40,000-strong anti-globalization rally
in Hyderabad itself. Participants to the ASF included NGOs, social activists,
rights' groups, academics and private individuals. AI India organised
three seminars at the ASF in collaboration with other national and international
NGOs on the themes of "Globalisation and Legal Frameworks to Protect
Economic Social and Cultural Rights", "Refugee Rights"
and "Criminal Justice." AI members from India, Nepal and Thailand
attended the ASF.
As you know, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
entered into force on 1 July 2002. The ICC will have jurisdiction over
crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and can
investigate these crimes, if national courts are unable or unwilling to
do so. As of 10th December 2002, 139 states have signed and 87 states
have ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC. The USA has been the only state
actively to oppose the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
Since the adoption of the Rome Statute, the USA has sought an exemption
for US nationals from the jurisdiction of the Court. In recent months,
the USA has been asking states around the world to sign impunity agreements,
providing that they will not surrender US nationals accused of genocide,
crimes against humanity and war crimes to the new International Criminal
On 26 December 2002 representatives of both the Indian and the USA governments
met to sign an impunity agreement, which provides that neither country
will surrender persons of the other country to any international tribunal
without the other country's express consent. AI issued a press release
- which you will find enclosed here - soon after the agreement was signed,
as it believes that these agreements threaten the worldwide effort to
Several other press releases, Urgent Actions and articles on India published
by AI are enclosed in this mailing as well as the entry on India contained
in Amnesty International's "Report 2002." This report presents
an overview of the human rights situation in over 140 countries in the
world. In keeping with tradition, AI's "Report 2003" will be
released on 28 May this year and it will include, as usual, an entry on
India. India office address is as follows: Amnesty International India,
C-161, 4th Floor, Gautam Nagar, (Behind Indian Oil Building/ Gulmohar
Commercial Complex), Delhi-110049. E-mail: email@example.com
AI India has also recently set up a website, which you can visit at http://www.amnesty.org.in/.
You will find in it a complete introduction to AI as a global movement
as well as to AI India's specific Activities.
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In mid 2002 AI India have also been organising a series of Human Rights
Education and Action Workshops for its members aimed at developing a common
understanding of the Human Rights Movement within the country, Human Rights
Standards-national and international and an understanding of AI as an
organisation. The workshops were also an attempt at bringing AI India
members together to plan and initiate more action.
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Yours sincerely. -- Giulia De Ponte, 19 March 2003
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International is concerned for the safety of sisters Shazada and Shameema,
their father Abdul Rehman Dar, and other members of their family.
They have been threatened by paramilitaries in the state of Jammu and
In October 2002, Shazada and Shameema were returning from a family marriage
party to their home in Dangarpora village, Budgam district, when they
were abducted by a group of men. The men were reportedly recognized as
"renegades" (ex-members armed opposition groups who now work
with the security forces). Shameema was returned to her family after three
days but "renegades" visited the family home and threatened
Abdul Rehman Dar that he would be shot if he sought assistance from the
police to secure Shazada's release.
Shazada was held captive by the "renegades" for three months.
During that time she was forced to live as the wife of one of them, a
40-year-old man who was already married. Shazada was held in his house
and continually watched. In mid-February 2003, she escaped and returned
to her family home.
On the night of 23 February the "renegade" who had held Shazada
captive came to the family home with two other men. All three were armed.
They threatened that unless Shazada willingly returned to them they would
burn down the family's house, abduct Shazada and Shameema again and harm
Abdul Rehman Dar. Abdul Rehman Dar persuaded the men to let him have time
to consider their demand and they left.
Since this threat, Abdul Rehman Dar, Shazada and Shameema have left the
family home and have been hiding in the homes of friends. His wife and
three younger children remain in the family home, looking after the family
land and cattle. The family's lawyer filed a petition in the Jammu and
Kashmir High Court on 28 February seeking protection for the family but
no hearing date has yet been set.
Amnesty International has consistently received allegations of human rights
violations being perpetrated by "renegades", often in collaboration
with members of the security forces. These violations have included extra
judicial executions, torture, including rape, and the use of excessive
Of the thousands of allegations of human rights violations made against
the security forces and paramilitaries, including "renegades",
only a handful have ever been investigated and hardly any perpetrators
have been charged with appropriate offences and tried. In November 2002
the newly elected coalition government of Jammu and Kashmir published
a Common Minimum Program in which they committed themselves, amongst other
things, to restore the rule of law, uphold the human rights of the civilian
population, investigate human rights violations and punish those responsible.
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Abdul Rehman Dar and the family's lawyer visited the Superintendent of
Police [SP] of Budgam on 22 March to ask whether it was now safe for the
family to return to their home. The SP reportedly informed them that it
was safe and that every effort was being made to arrest the "renegades"
(ex-members of armed opposition groups who now work with the security
forces) who had abducted Shazada and Shameema and threatened their family.
While Abdul Rehman Dar, Shazada and Shameema were in hiding, "renegades"
reportedly visited their home and made further threats to family members
who lived nearby. -- 6 March 2003.
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membership expresses solidarity to the families of the disappeared in
Amnesty International is concerned that thousands of families are still
waiting to know the fate of their relatives who were "disappeared"
in police custody in the period of militancy in Punjab and may have been
extra judicially executed and illegally cremated by the Punjab police.
The culture of impunity which developed within the criminal justice system
in the state during the militancy period continues. Amnesty International
believes that until it is reversed and the procedures and attitudes which
facilitated abuses during that period are changed, human rights abuses
will continue in the state.
An essential part of this process of change would be to bring to justice
those responsible for these past abuses. It is with this in mind that
Amnesty International members during February and March 2003 will be sending
cards to the families of people who were illegally cremated, to show international
solidarity for their pursuit of justice.
Despite a Supreme Court judgement in December 1996 that ordered the National
Human Rights Commission to examine the findings of the Central Bureau
of Investigations (CBI) that there had been 2,097 illegal cremations by
police officials in Amritsar district, there have been severe delays in
the process and procedural limitations imposed on investigations. The
State of Punjab has only just begun to file its affidavits on those cases
under examination by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Furthermore,
the recommendations, that the NHRC may make, including for prosecution
of police officers, are not binding on the criminal justice system and
there is no guarantee that the CBI will follow up on the NHRC's investigation
with regard to Prosecutions.
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