The release of a 14-year-old boy held without charge or trial for more than a month in Jammu and Kashmir was welcomed today by Amnesty International.
Faizan Rafiq Hakeem was arrested in early February this year and charged with rioting and other offences for which he received bail but instead of releasing him, the police then detained him under the controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA).
The PSA allows state authorities to detain people for up to two years without charge or trial.
“We are really glad to see this young boy released but Faizan’s case is only the tip of the iceberg in Jammu and Kashmir where hundreds of people, including children, are routinely locked up on vague and frivolous grounds under the Public Safety Act,” said Madhu Malhotra, Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.
Speaking to Amnesty International after his release from Kathua prison near Jammu, Faizan thanked the organization for its campaign for his release. “After 40 days in prison, I feel somewhat weak, but I’m happy to be released. I will get over this ordeal,” he added.
Amnesty International’s call for Faizan’s release also resulted in a Twitter campaign with people tweeting directly to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asking him to “free Faizan.” He responded saying, “We are looking at his case sympathetically & will decide in the next couple of days.”
“The Jammu and Kashmir authorities must repeal the PSA and end the system of administrative detention, releasing all detainees or charging those suspected of committing criminal acts with recognized offences and trying them fairly in a court of law” said Madhu Malhotra
In particular, those below age 18, should be freed or held only on charges of a recognizably criminal offence and be given fair trials in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Faizan is alleged to have been part of a large crowd of protesters that pelted police and security forces with stones during demonstrations against the state on four separate occasions since 2009.
When he was detained, the police claimed he was 27 years old. His school records, verified by Amnesty International, however show he is 14.
According to Jammu and Kashmir’s Juvenile Justice Act, boys above 16 are treated as adults, which is not in line with the law in the rest of India or with international law which considers only those above 18 as adults.
“If the state is truly committed to protecting its children, it needs to make the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Act compatible with the UN convention on the Rights of the Child and implement its provision in full,” said Madhu Malhotra.
Amnesty International’s latest report on Jammu and Kashmir: A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act was published in March 2011.