HRW: India Should Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act

Posted October 18th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch says Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should keep his promise and repeal the Armed Forces Special Power Act, despite the objections of the country's army to even minor amendments.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the New York-based group said there is broad recognition in India that the law should be abolished because it has led to numerous serious human rights violations.

The act grants the armed forces the power to shoot-to-kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. The group said that, as a result, the armed forces routinely engage in torture and other ill-treatment during interrogations, and that soldiers cannot be prosecuted without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted.

Human Rights Watch said the law violates India's obligations under international human rights law, including the rights to life, to be protected from arbitrary arrest, and to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.

The Armed Forces Special Power Act was enacted in August 1958 as an emergency measure to allow the deployment of the army to counter a separatist movement in the northeastern Naga Hills. But it has remained in force in several northeastern states since 1958, and in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.