ARBITRARY DETENTION AND DEMOCRACIES
6 March 2012 Palais des Nations
United Nations, Geneva
Tuesday, 6 March 2012 - Kashmir Centre.EU, in association with International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) hosted an
Interactive Dialogue & Roundtable at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The event entitled Arbitrary Detention & Democracies discussed practices of
arbitrary detention in conflict where it leads to torture, execution and other human rights abuses.
The comprehensive and distinguished list of speakers included Barrister A. Majid Tramboo Chairman of ICHR and IHRAAMs permanent
representative to the UN Geneva, Prof. Alfred de Zayas Public and International Law professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy & International
Relations, Prof. Joseph Wronka, professor of Social Work, Springfield College, Massachusetts and author of Human Rights and Social Justice, Prof.
Nazir Shawl, Chairman of Justice Foundation, Mr. Ismail Khan, Journalist and Mr. Ronald Barnes Chair of Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition
Barrister A. Majid Tramboo opened the Interactive Dialogue by outlining the history of the United Nations mechanisms that aimed to reduce the number
of arbitrary detentions globally. Noting the the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had recently celebrated its 20th anniversary he pointed out that
many states still use arbitrary detention with no thought for the consequences as they were not grave enough.
On Indian Held Kashmir Barrister Tramboo pointed out that there have been many thousands of incidences of arbitrary detention in just the last few
years and that these often lead to summary execution, torture, enforced disappearance, and all manner of serious human rights abuses. Recalling the
most recent report by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, which discusses in some detail the recent discovery of many
thousands of mass graves in Indian Held Kashmir, he noted that such phenomenon are all interlinked. Often a victim will be arbitrarily arrested,
tortured, executed, and then he will disappear; as evidence has shown time and again. The number of cases responded to by the Government of India,
of which KCEU has submitted many hundreds, is approximately 2% and that these few responses often do not answer the question asked by the
OHCHR in the first place.
Barrister Tramboo called for repeal of the “Black Laws” as a first and immediate step to reducing human rights abuses. The impunity from
prosecution enjoyed by Indian forces due to laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act drastically increased
instances of human rights abuse in the occupied territories and are against legally binding international human rights treaties to which India is a
Prof. Alfred de Zayas began by stating that the concept of human rights is not the flavour of the month. It is the most noble commitment of men and
women of good will, who believe in peace and development and who want to make this a reality not just for elites but for all human beings in all regions
of the world.
The problem with the United Nations -- as with every human institution -- is that member States work for their perceived interests, not for human rights
or human dignity. Thus it is the task of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to persuade States that it is in their own interest to play
by the rules. The principle of equality and non-selectivity is crucial for the credibility and good functioning of the system. The lack of equality and non-
selectivity that is often employed only server to erode trust and confidence as well as ensuring that human rights abuses are tolerated and continue.
Prof. Nazir Shawl discussed at length the mass graves in Kashmir. Making a direct link between mass graves and arbitrary detention he called for a
repeal of the black laws in Indian Held Kashmir stating that these laws facilitate gross human rights abuses not least by offering impunity to the
perpetrators. He said that it is the responsibility of all states to abide by their human rights obligations and that the Government of India was picking
which ones it would like to abide by and when. He went on to discuss the continued persecution of human rights defenders in Jammu & Kashmir and
asked the audience to read the most recent report of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders who visited Indian Held Kashmir in early
Prof. Joseph Wronka discussed incidences of arbitrary detention since 2001 which he said have increased dramatically under the guise of fighting
terrorism. He asked what could be done in order to ensure that states were not able to pick and choose the human rights that they chose to respect
dependent upon their perceived needs. He outlined that all states are bound by the treaties that they have signed and that it is their duty to follow them
to the letter.
Mr. Ismail Khan noted that South Asia had the potential to become an economic powerhouse and that decades had been lost due to tense relations
between major players in the region. He noted that while arbitrary detention continues, and laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (J&K)
continue to be deployed, then no substantive progress is likely to be made as such laws demonstrate a lack of trust and vision regarding the peace
and reconciliation process.
Mr. Ronald Barnes outlined a number of cases in which the indigenous people of Alaska had been arbitrarily detained and denied their human rights
over the years. Highlighting the case study as one of the great examples of arbitrary detention and the denial of self-determination Mr. Barnes said
that the international community practiced hypocrisy in only pursuing human rights abuses when it was politically convenient.
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