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E.U.: Include Human Rights in India Summit

(Brussels) -- Human Rights Watch today urged the European Union to raise pressing human rights concerns at the second annual E.U.-India summit to be held in New Delhi on November 23 and 24.

Like many nations, India is facing heightened national security concerns arising from the September 11 attacks and U.S.-led military strikes in the region. In a letter addressed to EU President and Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt, European Commission President Prodi, EU Foreign and Development Ministers and Commissioners Patten, Nielson and Lamy and CFSP High Representative Solana, Human Rights Watch urged the E.U. to caution the Indian government against ill-considered changes to Indian law and policy that would unnecessarily erode basic rights to personal liberty in the name of fighting terrorism.

The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), currently being debated in Indian parliament, gives Indian police sweeping powers of arrest and detention. POTO has been strongly criticized by leading Indian civil rights groups, academics, lawyers, opposition parties, media organizations, and the country's National Human Rights Commission.

"The time is ripe for the E.U. to urge the Indian government to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and to support individuals and groups in the region struggling for human rights in an increasingly polarized and fragile national environment," said Smita Narula, senior researcher in the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.

In advance of the summit, more than twenty members of the European Parliament (MEPs) wrote to EU Commissioners Pascal Lamy and Chris Patten urging them to use this summit to discuss strategies to eradicate caste discrimination in the region.

"The E.U. should urge the Indian government to seek international cooperation and assistance in tackling the very immense problem of caste violence and discrimination," added Smita Narula. "Both sides must build on promises made at the last summit to coordinate efforts to promote and protect human rights."

The rights group also called attention to attacks on religious minorities in the country, fueled by a rise in Hindu nationalism that is actively promoted by the current government. Developments in Kashmir were also highlighted.

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