Crimes Against Humanity – Excerpts from Amnesty Internation Report 2008

NOVANEWS

Human Rights Violations in India

 

Bomb attacks and armed conflict in various parts of the country left hundreds of people dead. Indo Pakistan Talks as well as initiatives to resolve conflicts in Kashmir and Nagaland made little progress.

Many types of human rights abuses were reported, including unlawful killings, forced evictions, excessive use of police force, violence against women and harassment of human rights defenders. Institutional mechanisms failed to protect civil and political rights or ensure justice for victims. The failings extended to economic, social and cultural rights, particularly of already marginalized communities.

Background

Hundreds of people were killed in bomb attacks, including 66 passengers on a train to Pakistan February, 42 in Hyderabad in August and 10 in Uttar Pradesh in November. Concerns over recurrent attacks marked the ongoing Indo-Pakistan talks, which failed to achieve significant progress. Little progress was made in the peace initiatives over Kashmir and Nagaland. In Assam, there were 152 Amnesty International Report 2008 renewed bomb attacks, as well as assaults on migrants from northern states, in January and November.

At least 400 people were killed as police battled Maoists in central and eastern states. Unlawful methods were increasingly used to deal with such protests, and impunity for abuses remained widespread. High suicide rates by debt-ridden farmers continued in some states, including Maharashtra.

India signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in February and was re-elected to the UN Human Rights Council. However, India had still not ratified the Convention against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Requests to visit the Country by the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial executions remained pending. Invitations were also not issued to the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Violence against adivasis and Marginalized communities

There was rising violence in Dantewada area in Chattisgarh between armed Maoists and state forces supported by Salwa Judum, a civil militia widely believed to be state sponsored. Civilians, mostly Amnesty International Report 2008 153 adivasis, were targeted by both sides. Unlawful killings, abductions, torture and mutilation by both sides were reported; instances of sexual assault by state agents and killings after summary trials by the Maoists were reported; and overwhelming majority of these abuses were not fully investigated.

Around 50,000 adivasis continued to be internally displaced from the Dantewada area, a majority of them living in special camps. No serious attempt was made to ensure their voluntary return amid reports that some of their land could be offered for businesses and development projects. At least 10,000 other adivasis were reported to have fled into Andhra Pradesh.

  • On 31 March, 12 adviasis were killed by the state police and the Salwa Judum at Santoshpur.

  • On 14 May, a well-known activist of the people’s Union of Civil Liberties, Dr Binayak Sen, was arrested; he was charged under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 and the amended provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. His arrest led to widespread protests by human rights organizations and the medical community.

  • On 10 July, five adivasi activists were killed by the Karnataka police at Adyaka in Chikmagalur district.

  • On 20 August, 11 adivasi women were sexually assaulted by the Andhra Pradesh police at Vakpalli in Visakhapatnam district.

  • Activists campaigning for land rights or environmental issues relating to marginalized communities faced abuses.

  • In July, Saroj Mohanty, writer-activist protesting against the threat of displacement of adivasis by the Utkal Alumina industrial project at Kashipur in Orissa, was detained on charges of dacoity (robbery), trespass and attempted murder.

  • In April, police used excessive force against adivasis protesting against threatened forced evictions by the state forest department in Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. Seven adivasis were injured.

  • In July, seven protesters were killed when police fired into demonstrations for land rights in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.

Security and human rights

The Armed forces Special Powers Act, 1958, was not repealed despite widespread protests.

Impunity

Impunity remained widespread.

Jammu and Kashmir

State and non-state actors continued to enjoy impunity for torture, deaths in custody, abductions and unlawful killings. A human rights organization reported that in the past 18 years 1,051 people had been victims of enforced disappearance in Baramulla district alone. Human rights organizations challenged official claims that there had been no disappearances until 10 November 2007, saying that 60 people had disappeared since 2006, including nine in 2007. Five people, who had allegedly been detained illegally, were traced. In a few cases criminal action was initiated for human rights violations committed years earlier.

Gujarat

Five years after the violence in which thousands of Muslims were attacked and more than 2,000 killed, justice continued to elude most victims and survivors. 154 Amnesty International Report 2008 Perpetrators of the violence indicated in the media that members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were implicated in the violence, yet no substantive investigation was carried out.

Little action was taken over an official report that more than 5,000 displaced families continued to live in “sub-human” conditions in Gujarat. Several key cases relating to killings and sexual assault of Muslim women were still pending before the Supreme Court.

In May, Gujarat authorities admitted that senior police officials had been involved in the unlawful killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife, Kausar Bi, in November, 2005. Following this development, relatives of at least three other people killed by the police in previous years sought fresh investigations.

Punjab

A majority of police officers responsible for serious human rights violation during the 1984-94 civil unrest in Punjab continued to evade justice. The findings of a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations of unlawful killings of 2,097 people who were cremated by the police had still not been made fully public. However, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was criticized for the slow pace of its investigations, and a commission appointed by the NHRC in 2006 to examine compensation claims was criticized in October by human rights organizations for various failings.

Assam

A commission of inquiry into the unlawful killings between 1998 and 2001 of 35 individuals associated with the United Liberation Front of Assam published its findings in November. It concluded that the killings were carried out by surrendered members of the organization at the behest of a former chief minister and the state police. It remained unclear if anyone would be brought to justice.

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