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Asia

WikiLeaks reveals Kashmir torture reports

Detainees in Indian-administered Kashmir have been tortured, according to the WikiLeaks website. US diplomats in Delhi were briefed about the abuses by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

WikiLeaks has published confidential US diplomatic cables

WikiLeaks has published confidential US diplomatic cables

When asked by Deutsche Welle about the report, an ICRC spokesman in Geneva confirmed that the described meeting between a Red Cross representative and an American diplomat had indeed taken place in 2005, but that the ICRC could not comment on the content, nor take responsibility for what was written in a cable by the US embassy.

The ICRC's general policy is not to publish its findings after visiting detention places - in Kashmir as well as in many other parts of the world - but rather to take up any abuses or other problems in bilateral talks with the responsible authorities. It is this confidentiality which has helped the Red Cross gain access to jails in Kashmir, which it continues to visit regularly - whereas rights groups like Human Rights Watch don't have these chances.

Hundreds of detainees complained

An Indian Army soldier in Jammu and Kashmir

An Indian Army soldier in Jammu and Kashmir

"I think the most significant thing is the statistics that the International Committee of the Red Cross provided - which shows that the large majority of the people they interviewed in private said that they'd been tortured, and they gave very specific details of that torture," says Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.

A majority of almost 1,500 detainees interviewed in private by the Red Cross reported that they had suffered various forms of torture, ranging from electric shocks to being suspended from the ceiling.

Systematic ill-treatment

The current chief minister of India's Jammu and Kashmir state Omar Abdullah said the leaks pertain to 2005, and there has been no torture since he took office last year. But Brad Adams believes that systematic ill-treatment continues in Kashmir.

Jammu and Kashmir state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah

Jammu and Kashmir state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah

"We have said that for a very long time, and unfortunately that hasn't changed. If people are brought into custody legally or illegally by the Indian security forces, and they are believed to be involved in militancy, they are very likely to be physically mistreated," says Adams.

No justice

He adds that it is not possible for the victims in Kashmir to get justice from the Indian judicial system:

"India has great constitutional safeguards and great laws, but if you go up to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, and go up to the court house, you'll see a very shabby institution overrun with cases and a court that has complained directly to us that they have no power to hold the security forces accountable. They are a law unto themselves."

Finding a political solution

Civil rights activists have long called for a repeal of India's Armed Forces Special Powers Act which makes it impossible for any member the roughly half a million troops in Kashmir to be prosecuted if the government doesn't give its approval.

Brad Adams from Human Rights Watch believes Western governments should be more outspoken about Indian human rights violations in Kashmir. He points out that finding a political solution to the Kashmir conflict would also greatly help in stabilizing the whole region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Author: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Shamil Shams

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