Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International (AI) has claimed that the new amendments to India’s principal anti-terror legislation passed on Friday by Parliament do not meet international human rights standards and are likely to lead to further human rights violations. AI urges the president of India to reject these amendments and suggest Parliament should amend the law to remove or revise existing provisions which have allowed the authorities to violate human rights with impunity.
AI, in a statement has also suggested for narrowing the definition of “terrorist acts” and in particular repeal the criminalization, in certain instances, of the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, ensure the provision for the offence of “unlawful association” is clear and restricted to the commission of recognizable criminal offences, repeal provisions allowing for lengthy detention for the purpose of investigation, and put in place safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment including prompt access to courts, mandatory review of detention, access to counsel and family and monitoring of all interrogations, repeal provisions shifting the burden of proof (through court “assumptions”) onto the accused; repeal or revise provisions compelling persons being questioned to supply information to investigators which currently forces suspects to self-incriminate and journalists to reveal their sources.
“The latest amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) were proposed without wide-ranging consultations with civil society and passed without much debate by the lower and upper houses of India’s parliament on November 30 and December 20 respectively”, reads the statement released by AI.
The UAPA was last amended in December 2008 after the November Mumbai attacks in which 170 people were killed and hundreds of others injured.
AI acknowledges that Indian authorities have duty to take effective measures to ensure the security of the population, including against attacks such as the one which occurred at Mumbai. However, security concerns should never be used to jeopardize people’s human rights as established in international law and standards. As India has emphasized, “terrorism cannot be countered by law enforcement means alone [and] effective responses will necessarily include other aspects of legal and social policy. Among these, rule of law and respect for human rights is among the key components of such responses”, reads the statement.
AI is also concerned about the new amendment which increases the period of the ban on specific “unlawful” organizations from two to five years, could lead to further abuses, since an initial determination of what is “unlawful” can be made and the ban applied well before any confirmation by a tribunal. This move could further restrict freedom of association and the freedom of speech as guaranteed under India’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which India has ratified, reads the statement.