Amnesty Denied Permission to Release Report on J&K Public Safety Act in Srinagar

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Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI — Authorities in Jammu Kashmir on Wednesday denied permission to Amnesty International India to release its new report on J&K Public Safety Act citing ‘prevailing law and order situation’. It forced the Amnesty to cancel the press briefing that was scheduled at 2pm on June 12, at Hotel Radisson, Srinagar.

Strongly demanding the repeal of J&K Public Safety Act, international rights body’s  new briefing title as “Tyranny of A ‘Lawless Law’: Detention without Charge or Trial under the J&K PSA”, highlighted that the draconian law circumvents the criminal justice system in the trouble-torn state  to undermine accountability, transparency, and respect for human rights.

 Speaking with Caravan Daily on phone, Amnesty official Nazia Erum said the Radisson Hotel management told in the morning that the J&K police asked them not allow the event.

“We have been told that we have been denied official permission to hold the event, citing ‘prevailing law and order situation’ in the state.”

75-year-old Mohammad Subhan Wani was detained on four successive occasions under the PSA between August 2016 and October 2018. Each time, the PSA order was quashed by the J&K High Court. — Photos by Amnesty International

When asked whether the Police issued written order in this regard? She said it was a verbal order and we met the police authorities and asked them to issue a written order as they did not give any plausible reason for denial of permission except law and order situation.  Because of the cancellation of the programme, we have forced to email the copy of the new report on the case studies of 210 PSA detainees in J&K, she added.

The draconian legislation allows authorities in the state for administrative detention for up to two years. The Amnesty’s briefing analyses the case studies of 210 detainees who were booked under the PSA between 2012 and 2018.

“The briefing revisits the PSA in the 42nd year of its existence and studies how it continues to facilitate administrative detentions and violate Indian and international human rights laws. This Act is contributing to inflaming tensions between the state authorities and local populace and must be immediately repealed,” said Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty International India.

! Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, 38, was booked under the PSA in August 2016 for allegedly “organizing and leading unlawful demonstrations and pelting stones upon police/security forces.”

The text of the PSA violates several of India’s obligations under international human rights law, including respecting detainees’ fair trial rights. Examining several government’s and legal documents of the detainees, the briefing provides a pattern of abuse by J&K authorities. This includes detaining children, passing PSA orders without due diligence and on vague and general grounds, ignoring the limited safeguards under the Act, subjecting individuals to “revolving-door detentions”, and using the PSA to prevent release on bail and undermine the criminal justice system.

 The report revealed that the rights body found 71 cases of revolving-door detentions, where authorities had either issued a new detention order or implicated a detainee in a new FIR, to ensure that they remain in detention. In 90% of the cases analysed, detainees faced both PSA detentions and criminal proceedings in parallel, on the basis of the same or similar allegations.

In October 2016, security force personnel arrested 39 year-old Tanveer Ahmad War from his home in Baramulla. War has polio and uses crutches to walk.

“The police appear to use the PSA as a safety net, using it to secure the detention of suspects who are released, or likely to be released, on bail. Conversations with the local lawyers suggest that the state police do not favour criminal proceedings as they involve a higher standard of proof and a presumption of innocence,” said Zahoor Wani, who led the research of the briefing for Amnesty International India.

Amnesty India also found that in many cases the grounds of detention mentioned in the police dossiers and in the PSA orders passed by the District Magistrate were identical which demonstrates non-application of mind. Further, regressive amendments to the Act in 2018 have also led to detainees being held in prisons far from their homes, in violation of international human rights standards.

Meanwhile, people who were arbitrarily slapped with PSA and later acquitted continue to face difficulties in obtaining jobs or continuing their education. Amnesty International India calls on the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to immediately repeal the J&K Public Safety Act and other legislation facilitating the use of administrative detentions and ensure that all detainees held in administrative detention are released. Authorities should also provide full reparation to all detainees held in unlawful detention under PSA.

The Government of Jammu and Kashmir should also initiate a prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of unlawful detention and torture or other ill-treatment in custody, and bring to justice those responsible.

“While the J&K High Court routinely quashes detention orders which fail to comply with procedural safeguards, it does little to tackle the impunity enjoyed by executive authorities. Jammu and Kashmir will elect a new state government in 2019. This government will have a chance to break with the past and show the people of Jammu and Kashmir that their rights matter. It must not waste this opportunity,” said Aakar Patel.

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