Pak Army, Taleban ‘responsible’ for abuses

Updated 14 December 2012
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Pak Army, Taleban ‘responsible’ for abuses

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan military and the Taleban are guilty of rights abuses with a lack of justice fuelling a crisis in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, Amnesty International said yesterday.
The military is using new security laws and a colonial-era penal system to act with impunity in the northwestern, semi-autonomous region where Taleban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence is concentrated, the watchdog said.
A spokesman for the military rejected the allegations as a “pack of lies and part of a sinister propaganda campaign” against the armed forces.
The military has arbitrarily detained thousands for long periods with little or no access to due process, said the report, based on interviews with victims, witnesses, relatives, lawyers, officials and militants.
Cases of death and torture have been documented, detainees are not brought before court and relatives have no idea of their fate, sometimes for extended periods of time, said the London-based human rights group.
“Almost every week the bodies of those arrested by the armed forces are being returned to their families or reportedly found dumped across the tribal areas,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty’s deputy Asia-Pacific director.
“The government must immediately reform the deeply flawed legal system in the tribal areas that perpetuates the cycle of violence,” she added.
Although judges have sought to investigate the fate of people who go missing, Amnesty said no military personnel had been prosecuted for alleged torture, enforced disappearance or deaths in custody.
A spokesman for the Pakistan military refuted the allegations, calling it a “biased report based on fabricated stories twisted to serve an agenda”.
Amnesty also singled out the Taleban and other militant groups for targeting human rights activists, aid workers, journalists and alleged spies.
It also reported that the Taleban had brutally executed captured Pakistani troops in contravention of international humanitarian law.
Separately, a government official said several hundred students have rallied against naming their college after an activist schoolgirl shot by the Taleban, saying the move would be a security risk.
The Taleban shot and wounded 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai in October in Mingora, the main town in the northwest Swat Valley, because of her criticism of the militant group and her advocacy for girls’ education.
Kamran Rehman, a senior official in Swat, says about 300 students took part in a protest Wednesday at Malala Government Degree College in Mingora.
Rehman said he was investigating whether any particular political group was responsible for the protest.


Minister’s comment adds fuel to rape controversy in India

Updated 7 min 8 sec ago
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Minister’s comment adds fuel to rape controversy in India

  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which will face national elections within a year, has been under fire in recent weeks
  • There has been a national outcry in recent weeks stemming from two unrelated rape cases

NEW DELHI: Even as India introduced the death penalty for those who rape children, a federal minister said that while such incidents were unfortunate, one “should not make a big deal out of (them).” His comment raised doubts about the government’s commitment to stop such crimes.
According to reports in local media, Santosh Gangwar, junior minister of finance, said: “In such a huge country, if one or two such cases are reported, one should not make a big deal out of it…. Such incidents are really unfortunate, but sometimes it is difficult to control these cases.”
There has been a national outcry in recent weeks stemming from two unrelated rape cases — the gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in the northern state of Kashmir as well as the rape of a teenager in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
In the first case, according to media reports, an eight-year-old Kashmiri Muslim girl was kidnapped, sedated and raped by Hindu men in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being bashed to death. Indian law prohibits the media from naming the victims; however, the accused include four policemen and a retired government official.
In the second case, again according to media reports, a BJP lawmaker was accused of raping a teenager who tried to kill herself in front of the state chief minister’s home because the police refused to register her complaint. Her father reportedly clashed with the lawmaker’s supporters and later died of injuries resulting from the clash.
The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, which will face national elections within a year, has been under fire for the past several weeks for not doing enough to prevent sexual violence against women and children.
Residents in several cities have held marches to protest the rapes, and groups of bureaucrats and academicians have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to express their concern at the “decline in secular, democratic, and liberal values.”
Comments such as those made by Gangwar are among the latest to stoke anger among those demanding justice for the victims.
On Monday, residents of Unnao, the constituency of Kuldeep Singh Sengar, the BJP lawmaker accused of raping the teenager, staged a rally in favor of the accused, dismissing the charges as a political conspiracy, local media reported.
The Unnao rally had echoes of an earlier one in Kashmir when members of a Hindu group led a demonstration to protest the charges against the accused Hindu men.
Two BJP lawmakers also participated in that rally and several Hindu lawyers tried to prevent the police from filing charges in court.
Over the weekend, the government finally acted, pushing through an amendment to the country’s penal code to allow the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12. The decision was termed by activists as a “knee-jerk reaction” and one that could threaten the judicial process.
Komal Ganotra, functional director of policy and advocacy at the nonprofit organization Child Rights and You in India, said that since in the majority of cases, the victims know the perpetrators, the chance of a death penalty would deter the family from filing charges.
“The death penalty is not the only way to serve justice. It may seem that the state has taken a big step here, but do not expect it to deter rapes,” she added.
Audrey D’Mello, program director at Majlis, a nonprofit group that has worked with more than a thousand rape survivors since 2011, said what was needed were resources to help survivors find jobs and then settle into regular life.
“The focus is always on conviction, but nobody is thinking about the victim who has been raped and faces a great deal of marginalization,” she said.
“The (Kathua) case was not just about gender violence but about religion and communal violence and that needs to be dealt with severely,” she said. “But 99 percent of the cases are not like that and the death penalty is not the answer.”