UN rights experts censure India over anti-terror law

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NEW YORK: A group of leading UN human rights experts have criticized India’s new anti-terror law that gives wide powers to the government to designate an individual as a terrorist and seize his properties, saying it was in stark contravention of international human rights standards.
Known in the UN System as Special Rapporteurs and Mandate Holders, the experts also slammed New Delhi’s high-handed approach in tackling dissent and opposition in the country that international media has lately been highlighting.
These experts made their comments in a joint communication addressed to the Indian government on it’s “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (Amendment) 2019”, a legislation that Indian opposition parties have denounced as “draconian”, in which they highlighted its inconsistencies with international norms and have expressed serious concern that its provisions are prone to be misused by the state authorities. In view of the legislation’s provisions contravening international norms, these experts have called on the Indian government to re-consider it.
This rebuke comes at a time when Indian actions in Kashmir are already under sharp scrutiny. These Mandate Holders have in the past have repeatedly called on India to rescind some of the most controversial provisions of anti-terror laws in Kashmir as they have resulted in endemic abuses of human rights by Indian security forces.
Indian authorities have long been known to use such laws in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir to suppress the legitimate freedom struggle, and unlawfully arrest and detain thousands of innocent people.
More recently, the provisions contained in this new amendment were used to charge journalists, human rights defenders and other unarmed peaceful protesters in wake of several episodes of unrest in India and Occupied Kashmir.
The joint communication by the UN human rights experts builds on the mounting critique of majoritarianism in India.
It also challenges India’s overly broad and self-serving interpretation of “terrorism” that it has deceitfully employed to suppress and malign Kashmiri freedom struggle and reinforces the assertion which Pakistan and the Kashmiris have historically made that legitimate resistance to India’s occupation cannot be equated with terrorism.
The Mandate Holders have pointed out that while defining “terrorism” , the new law exceedingly differs from the international standards and contains and overboard and ambiguous definition which can be weaponized and abused by authorities.
Condemning the broad provisions of this law, the Mandate Holders have urged the Government of India to confine itself to the definition of terrorists acts to only those cases which are in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions, notably resolution 1566 of 2004.
The Human Rights Experts have also referred to other provisions of the law that relate to fair trial, lack of judicial supervision and review, nature of the burden of proof placed on the accused and other wide-ranging executive powers, and said that they pose a grave threat to the enjoyment of human rights in India.
They have also warned that by including such acts that could likely result in a terror like activities, the new laws have given unbridled power to the government to brand any ordinary citizen or activist as a terrorist without actual commission of these acts.–Agencies