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Pranab urged to reject amendments to anti-terror law

London, December 22, 2012 (PPI-OT): The London-based international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International has urged Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, to reject new amendments to anti-terror law that fail to meet international human rights standards.“New amendments to India’s principal anti-terror legislation passed by Parliament do not meet international human rights standards and are likely to lead to further human rights violations. We urge the President of India to therefore reject these amendments; and Parliament, to amend the law to remove or revise existing provisions, which have allowed the authorities to violate human rights with impunity,” an AI spokesman said in a statement posted on the website of the organisation.

He said that the amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, were proposed without wide-ranging consultations with civil society and passed without much debate by the lower and upper houses of Indian Parliament on 30 November and 20 December respectively. “The UAPA was last amended in December 2008 after the Mumbai attacks in which 170 people were killed. Amnesty acknowledges that India’s authorities have duty to take effective measures to ensure security of the population including against attacks such as the one that occurred at Mumbai. However, security concerns should never be used to jeopardize people’s human rights as established in international law and standards,” he added.

He said that human rights organizations had highlighted instances where the UAPA had sometimes been used, with fabricated evidence and on false charges, to detain and try persons defending the rights of Adivasi and Dalit communities and the poor and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. He maintained that with the latest amendments, it was likely that the UAPA would be further used to curb such dissent.

The spokesman said that the Amnesty was concerned that the new amendment, which increased the period of the ban on specific “unlawful” organizations from two to five years, could lead to further abuses since an initial determination of what is “unlawful” could be made and the ban applied well before any confirmation by a tribunal. “This move could further restrict freedom of association and the freedom of speech as guaranteed under India’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India has ratified,” he added.

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