India Gets Generally Clean Chit on Human Rights from US

By Arun Kumar

Washington, March 12 (IANS) The US has praised the Indian government for its human rights record, but expressed concern over reported extra-judicial killings of people in custody, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces.

"The (Indian) government generally respected the rights of its citizens and made progress in reducing incidents of communal violence," said the Congressionally mandated Annual Report on Human Rights for 2009 covering 194 countries.

The report released by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday also took note of India's progress in "expanding efforts against human trafficking, and reducing the exploitation of indentured, bonded, and child workers" but said "serious problems remained".

"Major problems included reported extra-judicial killings of persons in custody, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces.

"Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Kashmir, the Northeast, and the Naxalite (Maoist) belt committed numerous serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians," the report prepared by the State Department noted.

"Insurgents engaged in widespread torture, rape, beheadings, kidnapping, and extortion. The number of incidents declined compared with the previous year," it said.

"Investigations into individual abuses and legal punishment for perpetrators occurred," the report acknowledged. "But for many abuses, a lack of accountability created an atmosphere of impunity. Poor prison conditions and lengthy detentions were significant problems."

Some officials used anti-terrorism legislation to justify excessive use of force, the report said. "Corruption existed at all levels of government and police. While there were no large-scale attacks against minorities during the year, there were reports of delays in obtaining legal redress for past incidents."

"Some states promulgated laws restricting religious conversion. Violence associated with caste-based discrimination occurred," the report said.

"Domestic violence, child marriage, dowry-related deaths, honour crimes, and female foeticide remained serious problems."

The State Department said there were credible reports that the "government and its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including extra-judicial killings of suspected criminals and insurgents".

"A high rate of extrajudicial killings, in which security forces shot and killed alleged criminals or insurgents in staged encounters, occurred in the Northeast, particularly in the states of Assam and Manipur," it said.

Unnamed sources cited by the report also alleged shootout killings in Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh.

The report highlighted the increased toll conflicts have inflicted on civilian populations in 2009, including in Afghanistan, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Among other countries, the report most critically faulted human rights practices in Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Syria and Russia.



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