Srinagar: Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch on Saturday asked authorities in Jammu & Kashmir to stop using the “harsh” Public Safety Act (PSA) for detaining people without trial.
In a joint statement, the three groups said: “The PSA has been used to hold over 400 people, including children in Kashmir.”
“The PSA violates international due process standards and should be repealed,” the statement said.
Authorities have detained over 400 people, including children, under the PSA, according to media reports. The PSA is an administrative detention law that allows detention without charge or trial for up to two years in some cases.
“Following an amendment in 2012, the PSA expressly prohibits the detention of anyone under 18,” they pointed out.
“The use of the PSA to detain people, particularly children, violates a range of human rights, and its increasing use in the recent weeks undermines the rule of law and further entrenches impunity in Kashmir,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Director.
“Police should end the use of the PSA; if people are suspected of committing offences, they should be properly charged and given fair trial,” the statement read.
It also gave examples of many Kashmiris detained under the PSA irrespective of the fact that the law could not be invoked against them because of age.
The statement adds: “The government has a responsibility to address violence during protests, but indefinitely detaining people without charge only adds to the lawlessness.
“Detaining children under the PSA is not only unlawful, but could have negative repercussions for years.”
It maintains: “The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which India is a state party, has stated that administrative detention in the name of security ‘presents severe risks of arbitrary deprivation of liberty’ and ‘would normally amount to arbitrary detention’, as other effective measures addressing the threat, including the criminal justice system, would be available.”
The PSA contains vague and overbroad terms, such as ‘security of the state’ and ‘public order’ that are not precisely defined, and therefore, do not meet the requirement of legality under international law, the statement says.
“The PSA does not provide for judicial review of detentions. It also protects officials from legal proceedings for anything ‘done or intended to be done in good faith’, which is inconsistent with the right to remedy for arbitrary detention or other human rights violations.
“The law has often been used to detain people on vague grounds for long periods, ignoring regular criminal justice safeguards.”
Under international law, anyone under the age of 18 is a child, and should be tried in accordance with the internationally-accepted juvenile justice standards, it underlines.
“The UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice say that the detention before trial of children shall be avoided to the extent possible and limited to exceptional circumstances.
“Detention must be carried out under procedures established by the law, children must not be kept in the same facility as adults, and untried detainees should be separated from convicted children. In the past, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has held that certain detentions under the PSA amount to arbitrary detentions,” the joint statement says.
Over 90 people, most of them protesters, have been killed and thousands injured in the violence in Jammu and Kashmir since July. Security force personnel have also been injured by stone-throwing protesters.