The Human Rights Watch asked on Tuesday Indian authorities to immediately release detained Kashmiris, who have not been charged with any cognizable offence.
Several thousand Kashmiris, including politicians and activists, have been held in preventive detention since New Delhi revoked on August 5 the autonomous status of India-administered Kashmir.
In a statement on its website, The rights watchdog demanded the Indian government release a list of all detainees and their whereabouts.
“Anyone who has been detained in Kashmir without evidence of a crime should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of the HRW.
“It is essential for the authorities to allow every detainee access to lawyers and family members.”
In addition to the arbitrary detention, the HRW said, the government has also imposed broad restrictions on freedom of movement and banned public meetings, amid a continued suspension of the internet and mobile phone services.
It said an undisclosed number of people previously participating in protests were being held under the Public Safety Act, a controversial law that allows detention for up to two years without a charge or trial.
“Others have been released on istighasa, a term used by Kashmiris for people detained by the police on the basis of suspicion but then released after a certification by local village authorities,” the rights watchdog said.
“While no case is filed, they remain under watch and are sometimes expected to appear regularly at local police stations.”
It said the Indian security forces, upon failure to locate wanted men, have also detained their family members. “This amounts to collective punishment in violation of international human rights law.”
The HRW noted that prolonged detention without charge violates India’s obligations under the international human rights law. It said the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is party, prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention.
“Anyone detained should be promptly taken before a judge and provided the reasons for their arrest and detention and any charges against them,” the rights watchdog said. “They should have prompt access to a lawyer and family members.”
It said the UN Human Rights Council, at its current session in Geneva, should urge New Delhi to act on recommendations in the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The HRW urged New Delhi’s international partners to “put human rights concerns at the center of their engagement with Indian officials and press the government to uphold international human rights standards” at the forthcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“India is making a mockery of its human rights commitments by denying Kashmiris a voice in their future, jailing political leaders, and suspending basic freedoms,” Ganguly said.
“The government’s heavy-handed measures are only making a bad situation worse,” she added.