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Dec 13, 2006 at 09:04pm IST

Rights group raps India, slam S Asia

New Delhi: India reported hundreds of judicial deaths both in 2004 and 2005 and attacks on Christians in BJP-ruled states, a South Asian human rights group said on Wednesday.

Extra-judicial killings, attacks on religious and ethnic minorities and curbs on press freedom are endemic in South Asia, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) said in a report.

With its entrenched parliamentary democracy and free press, India was the least bad offender in terms of rights in the region, the AHCR said. But it said Dalits continued to face "widespread rights violations".

A DARK ZONE: Anti-government protesters during a rally in Dacca raise slogans.

Citing data from National Crime Records Bureau, it said more than 21,000 cases of human rights violations against Dalits were reported last year.

"This vulnerable group continued to suffer discrimination, violence and (lack of) access to justice," Suhas Chakma, director of ACHR, told a news conference during the release of the group's 2006 report.

Bangladesh was mentioned as the worst violator of human rights in the region. "Human rights violations are systemic, endemic; and torture forms part of the administration of justice," Chakma said.

Rapid Action Battalions in Bangladesh, created to fight Islamic militants, were operating with "impunity" and were responsible for most of the 396 extra-judicial killings in that country in 2005, the New Delhi-based ACHR said in the report.

Most of the deaths at the hands of the Rapid Action Battalions were allegedly caused by "crossfire" but the rights group called this a euphemism for execution.

The rights group also slammed Bangladesh for not doing enough to protect journalists, saying they faced attacks from armed opposition groups, state agencies and political parties. Two journalists were killed and 142 were wounded in attacks last year.

Not the right-s region

Pakistan also came in for severe criticism, especially over "entrenched legal repression and cultural cruelties" that make women "excessive targets" of violence. The ACHR said that nearly 4,400 women were victims of so-called honour killings, murders carried out ostensibly to protect a family's honour and which authorities are often reluctant to prosecute.


"Custodial rapes were widespread but the government of Pakistan failed to take effective measures," a statement by the group accompanying the report said.

In Sri Lanka, the group said minority Tamils from all walks of life, including aid workers and political activists, continued to be targeted by security forces and right-wing Sinhalese groups as the ethnic conflict deepens.

The group said the Maldives government was misusing anti-terror laws to crack down on the opposition and that the president of the chain of Indian Ocean islands had "perfected" the art of such misuse. "President Abdul Maumoon Gayoom remained the judge and the jury and sentenced opposition activists ... under terrorism charges," the group said in the statement.

Bhutan, known for inventing the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as a measure of national well-being, was called South Asia's ‘Gulag’ for what the ACHR called its denial of political freedom and the violation of the rights of its ethnic Nepali minority.

The report highlights the fate of thousands of Nepalis who left the country and were stripped of their nationality after they complained of racial discrimination and demanded democracy. They live as refugees in eastern Nepal.