Indian Authorities Must Release 14-year-old Held in Kashmir Without Charge, Says Amnesty International
(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International has urged authorities in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to release a 14-year-old child who has been detained without charge or trial for seven months, for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests.
"Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offence or released immediately," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.
The authorities claim that Mushtag Ahmad Sheikh was part of a large crowd which threw stones at police and security forces in the state capital Srinagar in April, as part of the ongoing unrest in Kashmir.
Police say that Mushtag Ahmad Sheikh is 19-years-old but his family claim that he was born in 1996 and is 14-years-old. Prison records reportedly confirm that he is a child.
"If he is charged, he should be treated in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, held and tried in special facilities for children," said Zarifi.
Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh was first arrested in Srinagar on April 9. He was released on bail after eight days in custody and rearrested on April 21.
His family was not officially told that he had been detained but found out about it through a neighbor.
Initially held at Udhampur Jail, Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh is now held at Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu. Both prisons do not have special facilities for detaining children. Prison conditions in Jammu are harsh with limited health care.
In May, Amnesty International raised Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh's detention at a meeting with the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and the State Human Rights Commission. To date, despite their assurances, nothing appears to have been done.
Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh is detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act – a law that allows the authorities to hold people for up to two years without any judicial review.
This year, at least 322 people are reported to have been detained without trial under the act. A number of them, including children, have been detained on similar grounds of stone throwing and rioting during protests against the Indian government.
Over the summer demonstrators in Jammu and Kashmir voiced their concerns about the lack of accountability of the security forces; the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and the removal of Army camps – along with the underlying demand of independence for Kashmir.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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