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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 May, 2003, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Amnesty condemns rights abuses
Afghan police
The Afghan police force may have failed to prevent abuses
The human rights group Amnesty International has said there is serious cause for concern about human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

In its annual report, Amnesty says that while international attention has been focussed on Iraq, many violations have persisted in Afghanistan.

Many of the serious human rights abuses have been against women.

Amnesty is also critical of the performance of most countries in South Asia in 2002, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Afghan instability

Amnesty International says human rights in Afghanistan have improved in many areas but rape and sexual violence by armed factions and the public harassment of women who try to take a role in politics has persisted.

The report highlights weak political institutions, factional in-fighting and a general lack of security as contributing factors in making Afghanistan unstable.

It also accuses several European countries and Australia of pushing for the return of relatively small numbers of refugees despite the continuing climate of uncertainty.

India

Amnesty's report for 2002 accuses the Indian Government of failing to protect the rights of minorities.

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International at the launch of the report
Irene Khan, the head of Amnesty International, addresses reporters
"Religious minorities, particularly Muslims, were increasingly targeted for abuse," the report says.

"In Gujarat Muslims were victims of massacres allegedly masterminded by nationalist groups with the connivance of state agencies."

The Amnesty report also criticises the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) to detain political opponents, especially in Indian-administered Kashmir.

It said security forces "continued to enjoy virtual impunity for human rights abuses as a result of provisions in special security laws like Pota."

Pakistan

Amnesty renews concerns over "gross human rights violations against women" in Pakistan.

Police in Karachi fire teargas at an opposition protest
Pakistani authorities have 'failed to protect minorities'
It also says US-backed efforts to detain suspected al-Qaeda members have led to Pakistan handing over more than 400 people into US custody "without adequate human rights safeguards".

Amnesty also highlights the deaths of hundreds of women in so-called 'honour killings' which have gone unpunished.

The report criticises Pakistan for failing to protect Christian and Shia Muslim minorities, referring to the deaths of 40 Shia Muslims and 65 westerners and Christians in targeted killings in 2002.

Bangladesh

Amnesty says the authorities in Bangladesh have often carried out torture and failed to investigate many deaths occurring in custody.

Bangladeshi troops cordon off a Dhaka street
In Bangladesh soldiers were given immunity from prosecution

It says in 2002, 38 people "reportedly died after torture in army custody and eight after torture in police custody.

"Despite international calls for independent inquiries into these deaths, no investigations were carried out," Amnesty said.

The deaths in army custody followed Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's order to use thousands of army troops to crackdown on spiralling crime.

Amnesty says the move was also used to repress political opposition.

Nepal

Amnesty says Nepal has experienced an increase in unlawful killings, disappearances and torture.

It criticises the security forces as well as Maoist rebels for creating a "human rights crisis" in the country during 2002.

"It was estimated that of the more than 4,000 Maoists officially declared as killed since November 2001, nearly half may have been unlawfully killed," Amnesty says.

Many of the disappearances were a result of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Act (Tada).

Amnesty says thousands of suspected Maoist activists including lawyers, students, journalists and teachers were arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Sri Lanka

Amnesty says Sri Lanka's record on human rights improved following the Norwegian-brokered ceasefire between the government and Tamil Tiger (LTTE) rebels.

However, it says incidents of torture in police custody and the recruitment of child soldiers by the rebels have still persisted.

"Members of the LTTE were responsible for hostage taking and widespread recruitment of child soldiers," Amnesty said.

"Lack of accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations, including 'disappearances' and torture, remained a serious concern."


SEE ALSO:
Warning over war on terror
28 May 03  |  Politics
Afghan police 'abusing rights'
12 Mar 03  |  South Asia
India promises Kashmir talks
27 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Dhaka rebuked over rights record
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Amnesty condemns Nepal abuses
19 Dec 02  |  South Asia


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