Srinagar, Dec 23: Prominent human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has sought urgent action to seek release of 18-year old Kashmiri, Murtaza Manzoor, who has been detained for the third time this year under Public Safety Act allegedly for pelting stones on police.
“Eighteen year old Murtaza Manzoor has been held under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act by the state police in India since 19 December. He has already been detained twice for a total of four months earlier this year,” Ramesh Gopalakrishnan, researcher, South Asia Team, Amnesty International, said in an Urgent Action memo Friday.
“On 2 October, he was arrested by police in Srinagar for pelting stones, along with other youths. He was sent to Srinagar prison. In the first week of November, a local court ordered his release on bail. However, the police did not release him, but moved him to a different local police station, re-arrested him for pelting stones at them on a different occasion and sent him to prison again. The police have announced that he will now be moved to Kot Balwal prison in Jammu,” he said.
Gopalakrishnan said Manzoor was twice detained, once under PSA, earlier this year, first, between 8 February and 18 May, after his arrest on 21 January for similar reason.
“It was following this detention that Amnesty International verified his age from official documents as 17 and demanded his immediate release, unless he was held on charges of a recognizably criminal offence, in which case he should be afforded all fair trial guarantees set out in international law, specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),” the AI researcher said.
“On 13 May, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir found the detention unlawful and ordered his release. On 18 May, instead of releasing him from the Kot Balwal prison, a counter-insurgency team held him at the Joint Interrogation Centre at Jammu, following which Amnesty International issued another urgent action demanding his release. He was finally released on 23 June,” he said.
During his earlier detentions, Gopalakrishnan said, Manzoor had been treated as an adult, as prevailing J&K juvenile justice laws defined boys above 16 as adults, contravening Indian law and the CRC, which defined those above 18 as adults. The state cabinet has reportedly approved the amendment of laws to comply with the CRC.