New legislation introduced in India after the November attacks in Mumbai city would violate international human rights treaties, according to Amnesty International.
New amendments to anti-terror laws include:
sweeping and overbroad definitions of “acts of terrorism”
no clear and strict definition of what constitutes “membership” of a “terrorist gang or organization”
minimum period of detention of persons suspected to be involved in acts of terrorism extended to 30 days from 15 days and the maximum period of detention of such persons to 180 days from 90 days – already far beyond international standards
denial of bail to foreign nationals who may have entered the country in an unauthorised or illegal manner, except in very exceptional circumstances
the requirement, in certain circumstances, of accused people to prove their innocence
the new legislation on the National Investigating Agency authorises special courts to close hearings to public without defining or limiting the grounds under which they may do so.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International said that India’s experience with previous anti-terrorism laws has shown that they can lead to abusive practices.
More than 170 people died in the Mumbai attacks, which lasted from Wednesday 27 November to Sunday 30 November. A group of 10 armed men targeted public places and tourist destinations such as a hospital, a railway station, a Jewish community centre, a restaurant and hotels.
“While we utterly condemn the attacks and recognise that the Indian authorities have a right and duty to take effective measures to ensure the security of the population, security concerns should never be used to jeopardize people’s human rights,” said Madhu Malhotra, Asia Pacific Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
The organization has called on India’s President to reject the new amendments and for the President, Indian authorities and lawmakers to urgently review them. The amendments include changes to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), 1967, and provisions of the new legislation aiming to set up a National Investigating Agency (NIA), exclusively meant to probe acts of terrorism in the country.
“India’s authorities and legislators should show their respect for the rule of law, in the face of terrorist attacks, by reviewing provisions such as allowing a maximum of 180 instead of an earlier provision of 90 days detention of suspects, sweeping definitions of ‘membership’ of organizations and closed trials,” said Madhu Malhotra.