SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006


Contents

I. Indicators for ranking
II. Explanation about ranking
III. SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006
Bangladesh: Rank 1st
Bhutan: Rank 2nd
Nepal: Rank 3rd
Maldives: Rank 4th
Pakistan: 5th
Sri Lanka: 6th
India: 7th

 

Rank
Country
Political
freedom
Right
to life
Judiciary & administration
of Justice
NHRIs Press
freedom
Violence
against
women
Violations
of the
Rights of
the Child
Human
Rights
Defenders
Minorities/
Indigenous
Peoples
Total
score
Total
score
(minus minorities)
1
Bangladesh
5
7
4
6
6
6
3
4
7
48
41
2
Bhutan
7
1
7
7
7
1
1
7
6
44
38
3
Nepal
4
6
5
3
5
4
7
5
3
42
39
4
Maldives
6
2
6
4
4
2
2
6
-
32
32
5
Pakistan
3
5
2
5
3
7
5
2
4
36
32
6
Sri Lanka
2
3
3
2
2
5
6
1
5
29
24
7
India
1
4
1
1
1
3
4
3
2
20
18

 

I. Indicators for ranking

In SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 covering the events of 2005, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) identified nine thematic issues for comparative assessment of the human rights records of the member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). These nine thematic issues are: political freedom, the right to life, judiciary and administration of justice, status or effectiveness of National Human Rights Institutions, press freedom, violence against women, violations of the rights of the child, violations of the rights of the minorities and indigenous/tribal peoples and repression on human rights defenders. Though other issues like prison conditions, refugees, internally displaced persons, measures on the war against terror and national security laws etc have been extensively covered, these were not taken into consideration for indexing purpose. The records of the governments on these issues were the same by and large.

II. Explanation about ranking

Human rights violations cannot be justified under any circumstances. Therefore, the scoring is given in negative i.e. the country having the worst record on a specific thematic issue has been given the highest negative points (7) and the country having the least bad record on the same issue has been given the lowest negative point (1).

The scoring has been awarded based on the analysis of the incidents and patterns of human rights violations of 2005 collated, collected and documented by Asian Centre for Human Rights, though for the sake of brevity, the number of cases cited has been reduced. Afghanistan, though covered in this report, has not been included for indexing purpose.

To cite an example, with regard to the ranking on the National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), Bhutan has been given the highest negative score (7) because of its lack of willingness to establish such an institution. Though both Bangladesh and Pakistan failed to establish NHRIs by 2005, Bangladesh was given more negative score (6) than Pakistan (5) because Bangladesh failed to establish an NHRI despite taking the initiative wayback in 1996, while Pakistan took the initiative to establish an NHRI only in 2004 and placed a draft National Human Rights Commission Bill in February 2005. Maldives (4) has been given higher negative score than Nepal (3) as the Human Rights Commission of Maldives could not function since August 2005 because of the lack of quorum. In comparison, the NHRC of Nepal made a number of interventions. However, the independence of the NHRC of Nepal was seriously undermined after King Gyanendra issued an Ordinance in May 2005 to change the procedures of appointment of the members in order to select his own nominees as members of NHRC. Therefore, Nepal scored more negative points than Sri Lanka as the members of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka were appointed more independently. India's NHRC, because of its interventions on voluminous cases - 85,661 cases between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2005[1] - remained the most effective. The fact also remained that the Sri Lankan Government failed to identify those who set afire the office of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission in Colombo on 12 October 2005.[2] If the SLHRC can not be protected and government fails to identify the culprits, how can the SLHRC protect the victims or establish accountability for human rights violations?

III. SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006

Bangladesh (48 negative points) tops the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 followed by Bhutan (44 negative points), Nepal (42 negative points), Maldives (32 negative points), Pakistan (36 negative points), Sri Lanka (29 negative points) and India (20 negative points).

As Maldives has no minorities or tribal peoples, while ranking Maldives, the respective points scored by the other SAARC nations on minorities/indigenous peoples were deducted to arrive at the aggregate score i.e. “total score minus minorities”. Though Pakistan and Maldives shared the same aggregate points (32) without minorities, Maldives has been ranked above Pakistan in  SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 because of the lack of political freedom and the lack of independence of judiciary in Maldives.

Bangladesh: Rank 1st

In SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006, Bangladesh scored the highest negative points with a total score of 48 points. The Royal coup on 1 February 2005 in Nepal and the subsequent human rights violations there, the lack of progress  for democratic reforms in Maldives, the absolute denial of many rights in Bhutan and quasi-dictatorship in Pakistan will raise questions as to why and how Bangladesh scored highest negative points i.e. No. 1 ranking in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 despite having a democratically elected government.

While the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led government was elected democratically, Bangladesh was the only country in South Asia which formed an elite force known as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in March 2002 for extrajudicial executions in the name of combating crimes. In 2005, Bangladesh had the highest number of peacetime extrajudicial executions and the RAB and other security forces were responsible for the killings of 396 persons in custody including 340 persons in alleged “crossfire”, an euphemistic term for the extrajudicial executions.[3] The RAB also adversely impacted political freedom as the ruling BNP used the RAB to target political opponents. The murder of lawmaker and former Finance Minister Shah AMS Kibria in a grenade attack on an Awami League rally at Boidder Bazaar in Habiganj on 27 January 2005 allegedly by the BNP activists[4] exposed the vulnerability of the political opponents. At the end of 2005, Asian Centre for Human Rights also had a list of 63 indigenous Jumma political activists - mainly belonging to the United Peoples Democratic Front of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) - who were detained under various laws for their political views. According to Odhikar, an NGO working in human rights, 310 people were killed, 8,979 wounded, 1216 arrested and 93 abducted in political violence in 2005.[5]

Bangladesh scored more negative points on judiciary and administration of justice because of its failure to separate the judiciary from the executive despite the Supreme Court's order in 1999 and its failure to protect the judges from the attacks of the Jihadis. Two judges were killed and dozens of innocent people and lawyers were injured in the attacks on the judges and court premises by the Jihadis in 2005.

On National Human Rights Institutions, as stated above, Bangladesh started the process of establishing an NHRI in 1996 but failed to present the Draft Bill by the end of 2005.  Therefore, it has been ranked No. 2 with 6 negative points.

On press freedom, Bangladesh has been ranked No. 2 violator just below Bhutan which has absolute restrictions on the press freedom. While King Gyanendra of Nepal suppressed the press freedom with an iron hand during 2005, Bangladesh was the most dangerous place for journalists. The media persons came under repression and attacks from all quarters - the armed opposition groups, state agencies, judiciary, political parties and their cadres. At least two journalists were killed, 142 injured, 11 arrested, 4 abducted, 53 subjected to harassment, 249 received threats and 15 came under direct attacks and cases were filed against 130 journalists in 2005.[6]  The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party activists were responsible for majority of the attacks on the media persons.

On women, Bangladesh with 6 negative points was again ranked No. 2 violator just below Pakistan, where rape victims were further victimised under the draconian Hudood Ordinances. Rape, acid attacks, torture and dowry-related killings were common in Bangladesh. A total of 907 women were raped, of whom 126 were killed and 14 committed suicide after rape, and 382 women were tortured for dowry during 2005.[7] Most importantly, indigenous and minority women were specific targets of the security forces, political activists and the illegal settlers in case of the CHTs.

Bangladesh has been adjudged as No. 1 violator of the rights of the indigenous /tribal peoples and minorities.

Bangladesh is the only country in South Asia which practised a “population transfer policy” -  an “ethnic cleansing programme” - to make the indigenous Jumma peoples a minority in their own land and gradually annihilate their identity. In June 2005, the government announced its decision to provide “free food rations” to 28,000 more plain settler families who had been illegally brought into the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[8] Since 1978, the government of Bangladesh has been providing free rations of 86 kilograms of rice to each illegal settler family to sustain the conflict in the CHTs. On the other hand, indigenous Jumma peoples who have been displaced by these illegal settlers have not been provided any help.

The Hindu minorities continued to be targeted and their religious freedoms were violated. The government failed to implement Vested Properties Return Act of 2001 and the lands of Hindu minorities continued to be grabbed by force.

The government of Bangladesh failed to protect the Ahmadiyas from attacks by the activists of International Khatme Nabuat Movement (IKNM). The security forces have been accused of colluding with the religious bigots in attacks against the Ahmadiyas, such as in the attack at Sundarban Bazar in Satkhira district on 17 April 2005.[9]

Human rights defenders continued to face repression. Minority and indigenous human rights defenders were specifically target and their organisations were not granted permission to receive foreign grants. At least three NGO activists, including Joshi Chakma, an indigenous activist who worked with Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee,[10] were killed in Bangladesh during 2005. Offices of BRAC were bombed twice by the Jihadis and four of its staff were seriously injured.

The condition of the children in Bangladesh was assessed to be fairly better in comparison to Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India.

Bhutan: Rank 2nd

Bhutan's positive records on the right to life, status of women and children have been marred by its most negative records on political freedom, judiciary and administration of justice, status of National Human Rights Institutions, violations of the rights of minorities and undeclared ban on the human rights defenders. Its Shangrila impression and few reports of human rights violations may raise a question as to why has Bhutan been ranked No. 2 in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006. If absence of reports on human rights violations were to be the yardsticks for measuring the state of human rights, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea will be adjudged better than most democratic countries. Like in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, in Bhutan too many rights have been absolutely denied.

On political freedom, Bhutan has been ranked No.1 violator as there was no political freedom or political parties in the country. It failed to release approximately 70 arrested persons, mainly ethnic Sarchops and Nepalis, who remained incarcerated in connection with political dissidence during 1991-92.

On judiciary and administration of justice too, Bhutan has been awarded the highest negative points as there is no independent judiciary. The King remained the absolute authority to grant pardon, appoint and dismiss judges. Though the Evidence Act was adopted in December 2005, Bhutan did not have necessary laws in place for administration of justice to meet the basic international standards on fair trial.

As Bhutan has no National Human Rights Institutions nor has it expressed any intention to establish one, it has been awarded the highest negative points  (7) on the status of NHRIs.

On press freedom too, Bhutan has been ranked No. 1 violator. The only newspaper, Kuensel, was owned and controlled by the government. In 2005, Indian and other international TV channels were frequently banned in the name of protecting Bhutanese culture.

On the violations of the rights of minorities, Bhutan has been ranked No. 2. Bhutan continued to have discriminatory laws, policies and practices against the ethnic Nepalis and Sarchops. In a further attempt to suppress cultural rights, the National Assembly of Bhutan in November 2005 made it mandatory to conduct all public meetings in Dzongkha, the language of the ruling Drukpas.[11]

Given the virtual ban on independent civil society organizations, Bhutan has been ranked No.1 violator of the rights of the human rights defenders.

Although His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk released a draft Constitution in March 2005 to establish democracy in Bhutan, it failed to ensure inclusiveness. Over 100,000 expelled Bhutanese refugees were denied the right to participate in the socalled democratisation process. Bhutan was assisted by the government of India to deny the right to return of Bhutanese citizens sheltered in Nepal.

Bhutan, the country which coined infamous “Gross National Happiness”, ironically failed to take any measures in 2005 for the return of its subjects, who have been languishing in “Gross Sadness” for the last one and half decade in Nepal!

Nepal: Rank 3rd 

Despite the Royal takeover by King Gyanendra on 1 February 2005 and subsequent reign of repression throughout the year, Nepal has been ranked No. 3 in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 below Bangladesh and Bhutan. Although the pro-democracy protests were dealt with disproportionate force in Nepal, there were no politically motivated killings in the country like in Bangladesh. Bhutan did not allow enjoyment of any political freedom. In Maldives, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party leaders were charged and convicted in politically motivated trials under terrorism offences.

Similarly, on right to life, Nepal has been given less negative scores than Bangladesh despite the fact that the security forces killed at least 815 persons and the Maoists killed at least 709 persons during 2005.[12] But in Bangladesh, the feeling of insecurity primarily came from the Rapid Action Battalion created by the government with absolute power to execute people with impunity and without having any insurgency like in Nepal.

Following the Royal takeover, independence of judiciary further dipped. The government continuously undermined courts including the Supreme Court by defying their orders. Asian Centre for Human Rights recorded the re-arrest of 55 persons by the security forces after the court ordered their release. Yet, the judiciary and administration of justice in Nepal were better than in Bhutan and Maldives. The Supreme Court of Nepal repeatedly ordered the release of the re-arrested persons, sought to ensure press freedom, stayed the implementation of the Code of Conduct on the NGOs etc. While the words of the King were final and supreme in Bhutan, Maldivian courts were merely rubber stamps of the executive and continued to deliver Kangaroo justices to opposition MDP leaders. The Supreme Court of Nepal admitted petitions challenging the constitutional validity of ordinances issued by King Gyanendra, thereby, questioning the authority of the despotic ruler.

As NHRC of Maldives was virtually handicapped with only two members remaining with the Commission since September 2005, NHRC of Nepal was given less negative points than Human Rights Commission of Maldives.

Half of all the cases of censorship in the world in 2005 were reported from Nepal. The press faced tremendous repression under the absolute rule of King Gyanendra. At least two journalists were killed, 425 journalists were arrested, attacked or threatened.[13] Yet, press freedom in Nepal was assessed to be better than in Bangladesh and Bhutan. While Bhutan did not have any press freedom, Bangladesh remained the most dangerous place for the journalists in South Asia, because of the attacks, mainly by the ruling BNP activists with the tacit approval of the authorities.

Nepal was the most dangerous place for children in South Asia during 2005 and therefore, it was ranked No. 1 violator of the rights of the child. While the armed opposition groups both in Sri Lanka and Nepal recruited children, there were more killings of children in Nepal during 2005. In Nepal, an estimated 58 children, including 16 girls, were reportedly killed during January - September 2005 alone. Of them, 46 children were allegedly killed by the CPN-Maoists.[14] The CPN-Maoists also attacked educational institutions, paralysed the educational systems through frequent strikes by All Nepal National Independent Students' Union (Revolutionary) and abducted hundreds of children and teachers for recruitment and indoctrination. 

Although human rights defenders suffered severe repression following the Royal takeover of February 1st and the government sought to impose Code of Conduct on the NGOs in 2005, the status of human rights defenders in Nepal was comparatively better than in Maldives and Bhutan. Human rights organisations were not allowed to register in Bhutan. In Maldives, government continued to deny registration of independent human rights organisations.

Though the Dalits and indigenous peoples faced widespread societal discrimination and violence and Nepal failed to adopt national laws like India to combat discrimination, they were not targeted as in Bangladesh,  Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Similarly, though women in Nepal continued to face discrimination and violence, the violence against women in Nepal was not as acute as in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Maldives: Rank 4th 

Like Bhutan, Maldives' records on the right to life, status of women and children were positive. Yet, with 32 negative points, Maldives has been ranked 4th in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 above Pakistan with the same negative points without the minorities.

On political freedom, Maldives has been ranked No. 2 violator despite the historic step of allowing the registration of political parties on 2 June 2005.[15] The registration of political parties made no difference as the candidates had to contest the first ever multi-party elections held in December 2005 as “independent candidates”.[16] The right to freedom of association and assembly were severely restricted and the pro-democracy activists and opposition political activists and leaders, including Mohamed Nasheed, Chairman of the Opposition MDP, were arrested under the Law on the Prevention of Terrorism in the Maldives. Activists like Jennifer Latheef were convicted under terrorism charges by Kangaroo courts.

On judiciary and administration of justice too¸ Maldives has been given second highest negative ranking after Bhutan. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom remained the judge and the jury. Maldives has, however, scored less negative points than Bhutan as President Gayoom at least took the first step towards ensuring independence of judiciary by creating Judicial Services Commission in November 2005.

On press freedom, Maldives has been ranked No. 4 violator. There was little press freedom in the Maldives and the government continued to target the only independent newspaper Minivan. At least a dozen journalists were arrested for exercising their freedom of expression. Cyber dissident Ahmed Ibrahim Didi who was arrested in January 2002 continued to be detained till the end of 2005. The government continued to jam broadcasting of independent Radio Station – Minivan Radio – which ran a shortwave service for one hour a day as well as the website of Dhivehi Observer, based in London.

Although King Gyanendra of Nepal brutally cracked down on the human rights defenders during 2005, Maldives has been ranked No. 2 violator of the rights of the human rights defenders. There was only one registered human rights organization, Hama Jamiyya, in Maldives. The Human Rights Association of Maldives, Reporting Network for the Relatives of the Persons in Judicial Care, Maldivian Detainees Network and Maldives Center for Human Rights and Democracy continued to be denied registration, according to the Home Minister Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, because of their “international contacts”![17]

Pakistan: 5th

With 36 negative points, Pakistan has been ranked No. 5th in SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006.

On political freedom, despite being ruled by quasi-dictatorship of President General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan scored less negative points than Bhutan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal. The lack of any political rights in Bhutan, organised killings of opposition political party leaders and activists in Bangladesh, the denial of political freedom including the right to contest elections by political parties in Maldives, and brutal crackdown on political freedom in Nepal comparatively improved Pakistan's record on political freedom despite widespread violations of the right to life.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has been blamed for validating military regimes. Yet, on judiciary and administration of justice, Pakistan scored less negative points because of judicial activism of the High Courts and lower courts against human rights violations by the security forces. ACHR documented 9 cases where bailiffs/ raid commissioners/ lower court judges themselves raided the detention centers and rescued 33 persons  from the illegal detention of the law enforcement personnel. These were unprecedented in South Asia.

On NHRIs, Pakistan has been given less negative scores than Bhutan, which has no plan for setting up an NHRC, and Bangladesh which started the process of establishing a National Human Rights Institution in 1999 but failed to establish one. Though a draft National Human Rights Commission Bill was presented in February 2005, the government of Pakistan failed to adopt it till the end of the year.

Though human rights defenders who fought for equality and rights of women were specific targets of the politicians, fundamentalists and armed opposition groups; the repression on human rights defenders remained more precarious in Bhutan (7), Maldives (6), Nepal (5), Bangladesh (4) and India (3) than Pakistan (2).

On press freedom, the government of Pakistan cracked down on the electronic media and journalists through the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). Journalists lived under severe threats. At least two journalists were killed, 1 disappeared after abduction and at least 120 journalists were allegedly attacked by law enforcement agencies, political activists and fundamentalists groups in 2005.[18] Yet, press freedom in Pakistan was assessed as the third best in South Asia after Sri Lanka and India. It was because Bhutan (7) did not have independent press; Bangladesh (6) was the most dangerous place for journalists in South Asia; King Gyanendra of Nepal (5) launched witch-hunting of the journalists and imposed half of all the cases of censorship in the world[19]; and there was little respect for the freedom of the press in Maldives (4).

Pakistan was ranked No. 1 violator of women rights. Apart from cultural cruelties, reports of custodial rape were widespread. The application of Sharia law and inability of the government to confront cultural cruelties increased violence against women. Under the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance of 1979, a rape victim must produce at least four adult male Muslim eyewitnesses, who must be truthful persons and abstain from major sins (kabair) and have physically seen the act of rape in order to prove her case. If unable to prove rape, a woman can further be prosecuted under the Hudood Ordinance for adultery. About 80% of the women prisoners in the jails were victims of the Hudood Ordinance relating to adultery, rape, kidnapping and abduction.[20] Honour killings and rape of women at the order of jirga (traditional court) were common. As many as 4383 women were victims of honour killings and karo kari from January 2001 to December 2004.[21] The women have been denied the right to participation in public life and many were killed for their attempt to participate in public life. 

The situation of children in Pakistan remained more pathetic than in Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives. There were consistent reports of sexual abuse, forced marriages of children under traditional custom of ‘vani', corporal punishments in schools and home, illegal detention, torture and maltreatment of children in prisons. According to government estimates, there were 2,200 juvenile prisoners in Pakistani jails as of December 2005.[22]

Pakistan continued to remain a dangerous place for the religious minorities. On 17 March 2005, suspected Islamic fundamentalists killed five persons and injured 42 others in a grenade attack on the Protestant International Church at the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad.[23] The religious minorities particularly the Hindus and Christians, and Ahmadiya sect of Islam were targeted under the blasphemy laws. At least 60 persons were accused of blasphemy between January and July 2005.[24] Of these 60, formal charges were leveled against 53 people, while seven were acquitted.[25]

Sri Lanka: 6th

Sri Lanka's lower ranking, No. 6th in SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006 has been largely due to the fragile Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA) of 2002 between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its most positive record on the status of human rights defenders in 2005.

Though Sri Lanka scored less negative points on political freedoms, it must be noted that political freedoms, especially the right to freedom of association and assembly, were mainly enjoyed by the majority Sinhalese population. There was little political freedom in the North and the Eastern parts of the country. Both the government and the LTTE violated the CFA. The Tamil armed opposition groups also carried out widespread killings and abductions, thereby negatively impacting political freedom.

Judiciary in Sri Lanka suffered from the lack of independence. The May 2005 judgement of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka acquitting the four accused who were sentenced to death in the case of massacre of 28 Tamil youth at Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre in October 2000 further established that the Tamil minorities couldn't have equal access to justice in Sri Lanka. Chief Justice S N Silva also put cold water upon the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure agreement between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE by staying its operation.  Sri Lanka also adopted draconian Code of Criminal Procedure (Special Provisions) Act in May 2005 which increased the detention period from the existing 24 hours to 48 hours without producing before the judge.[26]   Yet, the judiciary and the administration of justice was found to be better than in Bangladesh (4), where judges themselves were insecure from attacks by the Jihadis, Nepal (5), where the government continued to defy the orders of the courts, and without doubt, better than Maldives (6) and Bhutan (7), where the despotic rulers had the final say.

On NHRIs, despite being hamstrung by the failure to establish transparency in its work, lack of powers to enforce its recommendations and inadequate financial resources, the HRCSL was given less negative score than NHRC of Nepal because of King Gyanendra's interference into the appointment of the members and its functioning and the lack of quorum in the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.

The status of the media in Sri Lanka and Pakistan was almost similar during 2005. At least 2 journalists were killed, at least 6 were physically attacked, at least 4 were detained/arrested and at least 4 journalists received death threats in Sri Lanka. However, Sri Lanka scored less negative points because of the adoption of the amendments in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on 16 May 2005 with power given to the authorities to seize equipment, withdraw licences and conduct investigations and empower the police to arrest electronic media journalists without a warrant. The electronic media also came under severe repression from PEMRA in Pakistan.

On violence against women, Sri Lanka was ranked No.3 violator because of the continued torture and rape of ethnic Tamil women by the security forces, though the number of cases were less than previous year because of the fragile cease-fire.

The situation of children in Sri Lanka was as precarious as in Nepal with reports of child recruitment by the armed opposition groups during 2005. However, as children in Nepal became more victims of extrajudicial killings both by the security forces and the Maoists as well as abduction, torture and denial of the right to education, Sri Lanka has been ranked No.2 violator of the rights of the child.

India: 7th

India has been given the lowest ranking in the SAARC Human Rights Violators Index 2006. Undoubtedly, cases reported from India were more voluminous than other SAARC countries. But, India has over one billion (1000 millions) populations in comparison to 152.6 million in Bangladesh according to 2001 census,[27] 132 million in Pakistan according to 1998 census,[28] 22.73 million in Nepal according to 2001 census,[29] 18.73 million in Sri Lanka according to 2001 census,[30] 0.67 million in Bhutan according to 2005 census,[31] and 0.28 million in Maldives according to 2004 census.[32]

By far, India provided more political freedoms than other SAARC countries. However, it failed to ensure political freedom of the vulnerable groups. About a million people, mainly Sikhs, who migrated from Pakistan to Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 have been denied the right to vote until today. The government of India failed to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court judgement pertaining to 65,000 Chakmas and Hajongs who migrated to northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1964. The Election Commission of India also failed to ensure implementation of its directions pursuant to the Delhi High Court judgement on the enrollment of about 20,000 Chakma and Hajong citizens into the electoral rolls. The Dalits continued to face discrimination while exercising their political freedom – from casting of votes to denial of privileges if they were elected.

Both the security forces and the armed opposition groups were responsible for widespread violations of the right to life. The National Human Rights Commission of India received a total of 1493 cases of custodial deaths during 2004-2005;[33] and 355 civilians were killed in police firing during 2005.[34] During 2005, a total of 1466 civilians were reportedly killed by the armed opposition groups, including 557 in Jammu and Kashmir, 393 in the North East and 516 in the Naxalite affected States.[35]

India's judiciary was more independent than its  counterparts in SAARC and the Supreme Court has been accused of encroaching upon the jurisdiction of the executive because of its activism. Despite all the positive aspects of the Indian judiciary, judicial delay plagued the administration of justice. As on 31 December 2005, 34,481 cases were pending with the Supreme Court, 35,21,283 cases with the High Courts, and 2,56,54,251 cases with the subordinate courts.[36] There were 4 vacancies in the Supreme Court and as many as 141 vacancies in the 21 High Courts in the country.[37] Due to mounting pending cases and delay in trials, many under-trial prisoners spent half of their lives in jail without trial. In July 2005, an under-trial identified as Machang Lalung was released from jail in Assam at the order of the NHRC after 54 years of detention without trial.[38] Yet, judiciary and administration of justice in India was considered better, among others, because of the fast track courts, Supreme Court's order in August 2005 for judicial impact assessment for the new laws to be brought by the parliament, classification of  the pending cases for speedy trial etc.

The National Human Rights Commission despite its systematic, institutional and operational flaws remained more effective than its counterparts in South Asia. It disposed off 85,661 cases between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2005 while 49,548 cases were pending before the Commission as on 31 March 2005.[39]

Human rights defenders did face challenges especially from the vigilante groups especially in the Naxalite affected areas.

The press freedom was more enjoyed in India than other countries in South Asia. In India, there was no government policy per se to repress press freedom like in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan.

Minorities and vulnerable groups like the Dalits and indigenous/tribal peoples continued to face gross human rights violations. The 2005 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reported a total of 26,127 cases against the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and a total of 5,713 cases against the Scheduled Tribes (STs). While the average conviction rate for the crimes against the SCs was only 29.8%, the average conviction rate for the crimes against the STs was only 24.5%. About 55.1% of the total displaced persons in the country as a result of development projects were tribals though they constituted only 8.2% of the total population of India according to the 2001 census.[40] Yet, India's scored less negative points on the Dalits and indigenous/ tribal peoples largely due to the affirmative action programmes and legal protections available, though their implementation remained wanting. Other South Asian countries did not even have affirmative action programmes or legal protections in place.

The NCRB also recorded a total of 1,55,553 cases of violence against women (VAW) including 18,359 cases of rape involving 18,376 victims, 34,175 cases of molestation, 15750 cases of kidnapping, 6,787 cases of dowry deaths and 58,319 cases of torture in 2005.[41] Despite high rate of violence against women, only 24 out of 28 states in India have established State Commission for Women by 2005. A total of 1,172 cases of rape against the Scheduled Caste women and a total of 640 cases of rape of the Scheduled Tribe women were also recorded in 2005.[42] A large number of cases of violence against women were perpetrated by the law enforcement personnel. Yet, India scored less negative points because of the existence of legal and quasi-legal  mechanisms and the fact that violence against women was not as systemic as in Pakistan.

The condition of children in India was not as good as in Bhutan or Maldives but children were not as vulnerable as in Nepal or Sri Lanka.

Ultimately, it is the activism of judiciary and quasi-judicial institutions like the National Human Rights Commission, despite having flaws, which were instrumental for more enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in India.               



[1] . NHRC Annual Report 2004-2005, http://www.nhrc.nic.in/Documents/AR/AR04-05ENG.pdf

[2] . Break in at the HRC Offices, press release of Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, 13 October 2005, available at http://www.hrcsl.org/publications/pressreleases/2005/october/break%20in.php

[3]. Blasts, killings by Islamists dominate 2005: Odhikar, New Age, 1 January 2006

[4]. 10 BNP men charged with killing Kibria, The Daily Star, 21 March 2005 

[5]. Blasts, killings by Islamists dominate 2005: Odhikar, New Age, 1 January 2006

[6]. Ibid

[7]. Ibid

[8]. Ration for 28,000 more Bengali speaking families in CHT on cards, The Daily Star, 4 June 2005 

[9]. 50 hurt as bigots attack Ahmadiyyas in Satkhira, The Daily Star, 18 April 2005

[10]. Female NGO worker murdered in Dighinala, HR Monitoring Cell, UPDF, 10 December 2005

[11]. Use only Dzongkha, The Kuensel, 23 November 2005

[12]. INSEC figures, http://www.inseconline.org/hrvdata/Total_killings.pdf

[13]. Nepal attacked over media curbs http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4598132.stm

[14]. CWIN, available at: http://www.cwin.org.np/press_room/factsheet/fact_cic.htm

[15]. Maldives to allow political parties, The Hindu, India, 3 June 2005

[16]. Government Bans Political Parties Contesting Upcoming By-Elections; MDP Disappointed, available at
http://www.minivannews.com/news/news.php?id=1258

[17]. Email communication to ACHR, 17 November 2005

[18]. Comment: Press freedom: the statistics of shame, The Daily Times, 4 May 2005

[19]. Nepal attacked over media curbs http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4598132.stm

[20]. Can Muktar Mai get justice, Leena Khan available at http://www.egothemag.com/archives/2005/07/post_5.htm

[21]. http://www.jang.com.pk/thenews/nov2005-daily/27-11-2005/metro/k1.htm

[22]. Juvenile prisoners to be freed on parole, The Jang.Com, 22 December 2005

[23]. http://english.people.com.cn/200203/18/eng20020318_92282.shtml

[24]. 60 accused of ‘blasphemy' in six months: NCJP, The Daily Times, 31 July 2005

[25]. Ibid

[26]. Two Bills on Code of Criminal Procedure passed, The Daily Mirror, 04 May 2005

[27]. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/country_profiles/1160598.stm#facts

[28]. http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/area_pop/area_pop.html

[29]. http://npc.gov.np/population/SummarySheet.jsp

[30]. http://www.statistics.gov.lk/census2001/index.html

[31]. http://www.bhutancensus.gov.bt/census_results_3.htm

[32]. http://www.planning.gov.mv/publications/yearbook2005/Key%20Indicators/KeyIndicator2k5. pdf

[33]. http://www.nhrc.nic.in/Documents/AR/AR04-05ENG.pdf

[34]. 2005 Report of National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, available at:
http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2005/CHAP14.pdf

[35]. http://www.mha.nic.in/Annual-Reports/ar0506-Eng.pdf

[36]. Court News, Vol 1, Issue 1 available at
http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/COURT%20NEWS.pdf

[37]. Too many vacancies, send names in 2 weeks: Govt to CJs,
The Indian Express, 8 December 2005 

[38]. Undertrials freed after 54 years in Mental Hospital,
The Assam Tribune, 22 November 2005

[39]. NHRC Annual Report 2004-2005, http://www.nhrc.nic.in/Documents/AR/AR04-05ENG.pdf

[40]. 2005 Report of National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, available at
http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2005/CHAP7.pdf

[41]. http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2005/CHAP5.pdf

[42]. 2005 Report of National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, available at
http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2005/CHAP7.pdf

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