Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir should end the use of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) to arbitrarily detain people, including children, the ICJ, Amnesty International India and Human Rights Watch said today.
The PSA violates international due process standards and should be repealed, the groups said.
“The use of the PSA to detain people, particularly children, violates a range of human rights, and its increasing use in 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 trials,” he added.
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.
Between 9 July – when protests and violent clashes broke out in the state following the killing of a leader of the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen – and 6 October, authorities have detained over 400 people, including children, under the PSA, according to media reports.
“The government has a responsibility to address violence during protests, but indefinitely detaining people without charge only adds to the lawlessness,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch. “Detaining children under the PSA is not only unlawful, but could have negative repercussions for years.”
On 16 September, Rayees Ahmad Mir, who is 16 years old according to his school records, was arrested in Baramulla district under ordinary criminal procedure for allegedly throwing stones at security forces.
Two days later, an executive official passed an order to detain him under the PSA, to preclude his release on bail.
The order incorrectly stated that he was 18 years old. Rayees Mir’s family challenged the order before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, producing documents that proved he was only 16.
On 7 October, the court stated that Rayees Mir should be treated according to juvenile justice rules, as there was prima face evidence that he was a minor, and ordered his transfer to a juvenile home. The PSA detention order has not yet been quashed.
An official at the Kot Bhalwal jail said on 14 October that the prison authorities had not yet transferred Rayees Mir, as they had not received a copy of the court order.
Mir Shafqat Hussain, a lawyer representing many PSA detainees, said: “In a number of cases the families have not been informed about the grounds of detention. Arresting minors and booking them under PSA is definitely going to have an effect on their psyche. From schools and colleges, these boys end up in jails where they will be kept together with adults. It is definitely going to have an adverse effect on them.”
On 18 August, Waheed Ahmed Gojree, who is 16 according to his school records, was arrested in Kupwara district and detained at a police station.
According to his family, the police at first told them he would be released the next day, but then said that he had been detained under the PSA.
He was first taken to a jail in Baramulla, and then to the central jail in Jammu.
An official at the central jail confirmed that he had been detained under the PSA.
The family has not yet received a copy of the detention order, or been formally informed about the grounds of Waheed Gojree’s detention.
The authorities appear to have not taken his age into account before issuing his detention order.
“The central and state governments have spoken about following the principle of insaniyat, or humanity, in dealing with the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India. “But detaining children under the PSA is neither humane nor lawful.”
Amnesty International India, Human Rights Watch and the ICJ believe that anyone detained under the PSA must either be charged promptly with a recognizable criminal offence or prosecuted in a fair trial, or else be released.
Not prosecuting people suspected of committing offences can also violate the human rights of the victims of these offences.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia & Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
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