Authorities in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state must immediately end the administrative detention of a child who has been held by police since January, Amnesty International said today.
Police arrested 17-year-old Murtaza Manzoor on 21 January 2011 in the state capital Srinagar, and accused him of attempted murder, assault and rioting, based on allegations that he led a June 2010 protest against the Indian government that turned violent and resulted in protesters rioting and pelting police with stones.
On 8 February, fearing that Manzoor would be released on bail, police placed him in administrative detention under the controversial Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for up to two years’ detention without charge or trial. He was transferred nearly 300 km to Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu, where he is being held.
“The Jammu and Kashmir government must immediately end the PSA detention of Murtaza Manzoor,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International.
“If the police want to pursue charges against him, he must be held in special facilities for children and proceeded against in conformity with international law.”
Although police records gave no indication of his age, Mansoor’s family members provided Amnesty International with an official birth certificate proving he is 17 years old.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which India has ratified, states that children shall only be detained as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. Children should be detained in separate facilities and as close as possible to their families.
According to Jammu and Kashmir’s Juvenile Justice Act, boys above 16 are treated as adults, which is not in confirmity with the law in the rest of India or with international law, which considers only those above 18 as adults.
“Jammu and Kashmir must immediately amend its juvenile justice law to treat everyone under the age of 18 as minors, in line with Indian and international law, and should afford minors all the legal safeguards set out in international law”, Zarifi said.
“While still a child, Manzoor has been locked up far away from his family in inadequate conditions alongside adults.”
A recent Amnesty International report, Lawless Law, Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, found that every year hundreds of people are locked up on spurious grounds under Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Safety Act.
From January to September 2010 alone police detained at least 322 people without trial under the act’s provisions. A number of those, including children, were detained on charges relating to protests against the Indian government in the summer of 2010.
The Jammu and Kashmir authorities freed 14-year-old Faizan Rafiq Hakeem on 5 April after Amnesty International called for his release. He had been charged with rioting and other offences before being detained under the Public Safety Act.