NEW DEHLI: The International Committee of the Red Cross provided US diplomats in 2005 with evidence of the systematic use of torture by Indian security forces in Kashmir, leaked US diplomatic cables revealed on Friday.
In a confidential briefing, the ICRC told the diplomats of 177 visits it had made to detention centres in Indian Kashmir that revealed "stable trend lines" of prisoner abuses, according to the cables released by website WikiLeaks.
It said that among 1,500 detainees that the Red Cross staff met, more than half reported "ill-treatment". Of the 852 cases the agency recorded, 171 detainees said they had been beaten, while the rest said they had been subjected to one or more of six forms of torture. These included use of electricity on suspects, suspending them from the ceiling and putting a roller or a round metal object on the thighs of the person and then having somebody sit on it, crushing muscles. Others had their legs stretched 180 degrees, or were subjected to various forms of water torture. More than 300 cases of sexual abuse were reported.
"There is regular and widespread use of IT (ill-treatment) and torture by security forces during interrogation. This always takes place in the presence of officers," the cable said.
The Red Cross said that it had raised the issue of prisoner abuse with the Indian government for more than a decade, but because the practice continued, "it is forced to conclude that the GOI condones torture".
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused India of abuses in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir, where it has been fighting an armed separatist insurgency for more than 20 years. The ICRC, which met with nearly 1,500 detainees, stressed that very few were militants. The vast majority were civilians "connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency".
It also noted that all the branches of the security forces used torture techniques and always in the presence of an officer. The cables concluded that the evidence of ill-treatment and torture was "very disturbing".
Violence in Indian Kashmir has eased since nuclear-armed India and Pakistan launched a peace process in 2004 over the disputed Himalayan region. But popular pro-independence protests since June have left more than 110 protesters and bystanders -- many of them teenagers and young boys -- dead.
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