Annual Report: India 2005

May 28, 2005

Annual Report: India 2005

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  • In April, Asiya Jeelani, a human rights activist, and her driver were killed when her car carrying a team of election monitors hit an explosive device apparently laid by opposition groups opposed to the elections. Another team member, Khurram Parvez, lost his leg in the incident.

Security legislation

In September the government fulfilled its election pledge to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) which it said had been “grossly misused” and which had led to widespread human rights violations. The cases of all those held under the act were to be reviewed within a year.

However, there were concerns over amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which included provisions similar to those in the POTA. There were also concerns that the definition of “terrorist acts” in the bill remained vague and open to broad interpretation. Several states indicated that they would introduce legislation containing provisions similar to those in the POTA.

The 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) remained in force in “disturbed areas” including large parts of the north-east. A number of provisions of the AFSPA breached international standards. For example, the Act empowered the security forces to arrest people without a warrant and to shoot to kill in circumstances where their lives were not in danger. It also granted members of the armed forces immunity from prosecution for acts carried out under its jurisdiction.

  • On 11 July, Thangjam Manorama (also known as Henthoi) died after being arrested under the AFSPA by members of the Assam Rifles in Greater Imphal, Manipur. Her body was found later the same day a few kilometres from her home; it reportedly showed signs of torture and multiple gunshot wounds. There were reports that she had been raped. Her death was followed by protests by community and women’s groups which the security forces tried to suppress by detaining participants and firing on demonstrators, injuring scores of people. A judicial inquiry was ongoing at the end of the year.

The lapsed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act continued to be used by some state authorities to detain and harass human rights defenders and political opponents.

Death penalty

At least 23 people were sentenced to death and one person was executed. No comprehensive information on the number of people under sentence of death was available, but there was continuing concern that some prisoners had spent prolonged periods on death row, which could amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

  • Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed by hanging in August after spending 13 years in prison. He had been convicted of rape and murder in 1990. His was the first known execution in India since 1997.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders in many parts of the country were harassed and attacked.