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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 19:08 GMT
South Asia abuses condemned
Indian Christians
India's Christians suffer from religious discrimination
The New York based Human Rights Watch organisation has released its 11th annual report, with the warning that South Asia's new concern with justice for past human rights abuses has not prevented the perpetration of new ones.

Pakistani women demonstrate
Pakistani women demonstrate for improved human rights

The report, which comes ahead of International Human Rights day on Sunday, highlights human rights problems in the region caused by armed rebellion, the displacement of people and religious intolerance.

It says several South Asian governments have responded to internal armed conflicts by introducing new anti-terrorism legislation or by stepping up emergency powers.

It also warns that huge numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are in need of protection throughout South Asia.

India

The conflict in Kashmir is cited as a focus of "grave human rights abuses" in India.

The report accuses Indian troops in Kashmir of "detaining young men, assaulting other family members, and summarily executing suspected militants."

India
Kashmir and other separatist conflicts
Discrimination against non-Hindus
Caste violence
Atrocities are also blamed on Kashmiri militants carrying out attacks on Hindu minorities.

India's ruling BJP party is also criticised for its Hindu nationalist policies, which the report says "undermine" India's commitment to secular democracy.

The report cites 35 attacks against Christians in the first half of the year, and claims government officials have done little to prosecute those responsible.

Caste violence, especially in the eastern state of Bihar, is also mentioned as a source of human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka

Renewed fighting in Sri Lanka between the government forces and the separatist Tamil Tigers has been a major source of human rights violation, the report says.

Sri Lanka
Civilian killings in war between Tamil Tigers and government
Around 1m displaced people
Battles in the northern part of the island have displaced 250,000 people bringing the nation-wide total to around one million.

The report criticises the sweeping powers granted to the security forces as well as the Tigers' use of "child soldiers".

Pakistan

Human Rights Watch says that civil and political rights have "deteriorated significantly" since the military coup in 1999.

"Opposition party members were subjected to prolonged detention without charge; some were tortured in custody," the report says.

Pakistan
Deterioration of civil and political rights
"Neutralising" of opposition parties
Curtailment of judiciary
Abuse of women's rights
According to the report, the military regime has used laws on terrorism, sedition and public order and the extra-constitutional "accountability" bureau to "neutralise political parties".

The Musharraf regime has also "greatly augmented executive powers and curtailed the independence of the judiciary."

Judges were forced to take a fresh oath of loyalty to the new regime, leading to the removal of 15 judges, the report said.

Human Rights Watch also says that over 1,000 women were killed last year because they were believed to have brought shame on their families - usually by marrying a partner not chosen by their parents.

Religious intolerance has generated new abuses in Pakistan, it says, where ethnic and sectarian violence remains prevalent.

Though the organisation recognised Pakistan's adoption of its first federal juvenile justice law and the setting up of a commission on the status of women, it said the steps back outweighed these steps forward.

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