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Published in the 1-15 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Police urged to stop abusing power

Hong Kong: The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on 16 October called on police authorities in Tamil Nadu to apologise for unlawfully arresting a leading human rights campaigner and 15 other activists, and stop violating people's right and freedom to assembly.

Those police officers involved in the case must be brought to justice for their abuse of power and wrongdoing, the Hong Kong-based regional human rights group said.

The AHRC slammed the police in Cuddalore, in particular superintendent Prem Kumar, for arresting the 16 human rights activists on 11 October to bar them from holding a meeting on police torture.

The rights campaigners arrested included Henri Tiphagne, who is the executive director of People's Watch, a vocal group against police custodial torture.

It is widely believed that the arrests were motivated by the animosity towards Tiphagne and his organisation, which once successfully led to the conviction of Kumar, who allegedly ordered the arrests, in court for human rights violation.

"Many police officers in India are notorious for their atrocious acts, especially for victimising those who would dare to stand against them," said Bijo Francis, a programme officer of the AHRC. "The provisions of law as evident from this particular case can often be misused for pacifying personal vengeance of police officers," Francis said.

The 16 rights activists were arrested under section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code for preventive detention and released later.

Francis said this was yet another exposure against the myth that India's legislation is good enough to safeguard acts against police torture.

Unless India ratifies the International Convention against Torture and comes up with domestic legislation and actively implements the law, the state of rule of law in the country could further deteriorate, he warned.

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