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Friday, July 16, 1999 Published at 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK

World: South Asia

Rights group slams Kashmir abuses

Civilians have suffered abuses from both sides

By South Asia analyst Alastair Lawson

A report released by the human rights group, Human Rights Watch, says that abuses by both India and Pakistan in Kashmir have been a critical factor in the latest fighting between the two sides.

Patricia Gossman of Human Rights Watch discusses the report
The 44-page Human Rights Watch report was written by investigators in Indian-administered Kashmir who were there at the end of last year.

It concludes that both sides in the Kashmir dispute are equally to blame for human rights violations, and that this repression and abuse has kept the conflict in Kashmir alive.

It says that unless there is pressure on Delhi and Islamabad to end the abuses, international diplomacy to defuse the conflict is bound to fail.

Militants target civilians

The report says that Pakistani-backed militants and their local counterparts have massacred Hindu civilians.

It says that these militant groups have targeted civilians, political leaders, civil servants and suspected informers.

It says that more than more than 300 civilians were killed between 1997 and mid-1999.

The Indian army and security forces in Kashmir are accused in the report of employing brutal tactics - including summary executions, disappearances, torture and rape.

Indian forces' brutal tactics

It says that Indian forces have continued to arm countermilitant militias who have assassinated human rights activists, journalists and civilians.

It says that custodial killings remain a central component of the Indian government's counter-insurgency strategy.

Likewise, it says the number of disappearances remains a serious problem, and that there have been hundreds of cases since 1990.

The report says that the Indian forces also routinely use torture to punish suspected militants and their supporters.

These methods, it says, have the sanction of senior officials.

The report says that prosecutions of security personnel responsible for abuses are rare.

There has so far been no response to the Human Rights Watch report from the Indian or Pakistani governments.

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