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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 15:05 GMT
South Asia human rights 'worsen'
Soldiers stand guard in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu
India has been praised for cutting military aid to Nepal after a coup
The human rights situation has worsened across South Asia in the past year, apart from some improvements in India, according to a new report.

Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal all violated human rights in efforts to put down rebellions, says rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Afghanistan faces an "increasingly violent" insurgency which is hampering development, the US-based group says.

Violence against women remains a serious issue in the region, it adds.

The annual Human Rights Watch (HRW) report looks at human rights developments in more than 70 countries during 2005.

'Serious abuses'

Its only praise in a generally gloomy assessment of the situation in South Asia is reserved for India.

Mukhtar Mai
Pakistan is criticised for its poor record on violence against women
Delhi played a "constructive role" by suspending most military aid to Nepal following King Gyanendra's seizure of absolute power last February, the group says.

India's government also wins praise for setting up a committee to review sweeping powers given to the army and paramilitary to combat militants.

However, it is criticised for creating legislation which HRW says protects police and security forces from prosecution and allows the torture of suspects.

"Indian military, paramilitary and police forces have engaged in serious human rights abuses in conflict zones, and yet there have been no attempts at transparent investigations or prosecutions of those responsible," the report says.

Rape victims

Meanwhile, security forces in neighbouring Pakistan come under fire for "serious violations of human rights" while pursuing the US-led war on terror.

A Sri Lankan army soldier stands guard at a check point in Colombo
Sri Lanka's army and Tamil Tiger rebels are accused of rights abuses
HRW cites military operations in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan as involving "collective punishment, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detentions and limited access to prisoners".

HRW also condemns President Pervez Musharraf for his government's "dismissive attitude" to violence against women, citing the case of gang rape victim Mukhtar Mai.

The group highlights a "sharp increase in violence" in Afghanistan over the past year, particularly in southern and south-eastern areas, as a worrying sign that the Taleban is regrouping.

Regional military commanders, or warlords, are strengthening their hold on power by subverting the political process and controlling the drugs trade, HRW adds.

US and coalition forces in Afghanistan are also criticised over the arbitrary detention of civilians and use of excessive force when making arrests.

Severe discrimination continues to affect Afghan women and girls, with domestic violence, sexual violence and forced marriage "rampant", HRW says.

Bombing campaign

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka has worsened since the Indian Ocean tsunami, the rights group says.

It accuses sectarian interests of hijacking aid distribution mechanisms and so undermining recovery efforts.

Tamil Tiger rebels have recruited child soldiers, HRW claims, and murdered opponents including former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

Sri Lankan police also stand accused of torturing suspects.

In Bangladesh, a bombing campaign by extremists in 2005 contributed to the worsening of an already strained human rights record, the group says.

"Bangladesh's security forces continue to commit numerous abuses, including extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force and custodial torture," the report says.

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