Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion has warned that India's continued use of the Public Safety Act to lock up political opponents is a block to a Kashmir peace process as well as an abuse of human rights.
At a cross-party seminar at the European Parliament in Brussels today organised by the ICHR Kashmir Centre, Dr Bennion said that while dialogue had recently expanded, human rights issues continued to be a focus of concern for friends of Kashmir in the EU and globally and had to be tackled by both the Indian and Pakistan governments.
Dr Bennion, MEP for the West Midlands region, highlighted the continued use by India of the Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act to detain politicians, lawyers and others who challenged the status quo by peaceful dissent.
He said: "This law provides for arbitrary detention, which violates the right to liberty under human rights law binding on India. Amnesty International's 2011 report found that the state authorities also used the PSA for other human rights violations, including incommunicado detentions, torture and other cruel or degrading treatment.
"Sometimes the PSA was used as an informal justice system for long term detention without charge or trial.
"Despite an apparent drop in the number of 16 and 17 year olds being detained since 2011, there are still cases of children being locked up in this way. The amendments of 2012 to repeal the power to detain children were clearly good news but there are reports that some authorities continue to detain children by falsely registering their ages.
"There are some signs of civil society in Indian administered Kashmir, not just confined to independence campaigners, beginning to flex their muscles for democracy and due process. Progress has been limited but it is encouraging that it is there at all and is something I hope which continues to grow.
"I welcome increasing dialogue between the India and Pakistan governments, though I think Kashmiri representatives should be more involved in this dialogue, which seems more and more focussed on issues such as trade."
Addressing Senator Badr of the ruling Pakistan People's Party who was the previous speaker at the event, Dr Bennion repeated his warning against India and Pakistan reaching a bilateral deal to cut their losses and carve up Kashmir permanently along the Line of Control.
"There is a risk that they might take this path. We must be vigilant to stop that happening and ensure that the Kashmiri population makes the decision on the issue of self-determination. It is important that the Pakistan government fulfils their responsibilities and does not abandon the commitment to hold a plebiscite to ensure the people of Kashmir have the final say."
"The EU has an important role to play here as honest broker, both in highlighting human rights issues and helping both governments to engage in a wider process of engagement. As part of a European Parliament Delegation I visited Pakistan in July, where we explored constructive ways the EU can help both governments and the people to resolve issues which confront them. Intelligently applied aid and assistance to boost economic growth and security is also important, but all of this work depends on progress and respect for human rights."
The seminar held at the European Parliament in Brussels today was organised by the International Committee for Human Rights Kashmir Centre. Speakers included Ricardo Espinosam NGO Liaison Officer for the UN, Senator Jahangir Badr of the Pakistan People's Party, Salim Wadia, advisor to the Palestinian Authority, Professor Satvinder Juss of King's College London, MEPs from a number of party groups and Majid Tramboo, Chairman of the ICHR Kashmir Centre EU.
Dr Bennion, a member of the European Parliament’s South Asia Delegation, was one of two UK MEPs in the EP delegation to Islamabad in July for talks with the Pakistan government and leading figures from opposition parties including Imran Khan and NGOs.