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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am bound to say that was a most helpful and genuinely encouraging series of replies. They will be rejoicing in the "Salutation Arms" at Nantgaredig this evening, particularly when they hear that anyone who suffered economic loss is likely to recover, West Wales being what it is. I am very grateful that the Minister has been able to be so candid on this occasion because it is an issue which affects so many people. I am most obliged.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Viscount Long: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.45 to 8.35 p.m.]

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Asylum and Immigration Bill

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

Lord Avebury moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 1, Amendment No. 8:


Line 16, at end insert (", but no such order shall include India").

The noble Lord said: I was very glad to hear from the Minister with regard to the last amendment that she and her department relied extensively on the evidence of Amnesty International because, as she will be aware, Amnesty International has recently published--I believe at the beginning of last month--a paper listing its long-standing concerns about the human rights situation in India. It lists torture, ill treatment of detainees and prisoners, and unfair trials of political prisoners. It says that the forces of law and order have used extrajudicial methods of exercising control, particularly in regions of internal armed conflict; that many people have disappeared after being taken into custody; that legal safeguards for detainees are ignored; and that judicial remedies are not available to the victims or their relatives. That is a point of particular importance, bearing in mind what the noble Baroness said on the earlier amendment; namely, that in deciding what countries to put on the list for designation particular regard would be paid to the availability of remedies for people who say that their human rights have been violated.

Special laws continue to deprive the people of protection, despite the fact that the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (known as TADA) was allowed to lapse in May 1995. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Public Safety Act is used for preventive detention and many of the provisions of TADA have been incorporated into the ordinary law. I want particularly to refer to the situation in the Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir.

I take first the Punjab where the situation is better than it was, but it is still not good. The impunity enjoyed by the security forces in respect of earlier disappearances and extrajudicial executions is still maintained. The Foreign Office pointed out to me that, according to press reports, in 1992 there were 4,000 deaths; in 1993 there were 394; in 1994 there were 50; and in 1995 there were only 4. But it is dangerous to believe everything that one reads in the press. Even though the trend is downward, it does not mean to say that being an activist in Sikh politics or in human rights is now a safe occupation.

One particularly high profile case, of which I imagine the noble Baroness will be aware, is that of Mr. Jaswant Singh Khalra, a very well-known human rights activist, in which there are good grounds for thinking that he was extrajudicially murdered in custody. The Minister who deals with that area in the Foreign Office, Mr. Jeremy Hanley, tells me that our High Commission in New Delhi is monitoring the case closely and has raised it several times with the Indian Government. The Supreme Court of India decided last November to ask the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct an inquiry into Mr. Khalra's whereabouts and to report within three months. The deadline was then extended to the end of April and it is important that we should evaluate the

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present state of affairs in Punjab in the light of the CBI's findings. If those responsible for Mr. Khalra's disappearance and probable murder are arrested, a signal will be given to people in the law enforcement agencies who commit crimes that they are no longer going to be above the law as they have been for so many years past. If, however, there is further procrastination, or worse still, the CBI has nothing to say about the case, it will be clear that the situation with regard to impunity is as bad as ever, so this would be the wrong moment to form any conclusions about whether there has been any general improvement in the authority's attitude to the rule of law.

That case is not unique. I use it simply as an example. I give just one other example of the way that things work in Punjab. I refer to the case Harjit Singh, son of Kashmir Singh, who disappeared following his arrest on 29th April 1992. I use that case as an example to illustrate what happens if people complain to the courts. A three-year inquiry was followed by a report to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh on 29th November 1995, but no conclusions were reached by that court, partly because of the lack of co-operation by the authorities and deliberate obstruction in the form of harassment and intimidation of witnesses, and partly because the Sessions Court seems to have been dilatory in pursuing its inquiries. The state failed to produce any evidence to support its claim that Harjit Singh had been killed in an "encounter" on 11th May 1992, the usual routine explanation which is given for cases of disappearance in Punjab.

The Parliamentary Human Rights Group wrote to the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court on 22nd March, suggesting that it should conduct its own investigation which might reveal some interesting material about why the inquiries by the lower court had taken so long, but so far we have had no reply.

As to whether or not it is safe for Sikh activists to return to India, there are several known cases where deportees have suffered violations of their human rights. I refer to the case of Kuldeep Singh who, after being deported from Germany following the rejection of his application for political asylum, was arrested by the Delhi police, taken to his house and questioned, using third-degree methods to extract information from him about how he got to Germany. I refer next to the case of Devinder Singh Bhullar, known as "Deepak", a known Khalistani militant from Dayalpura village. He was picked up by the police in 1995 and deported from Germany. It was reported that after he had been returned, he was produced in court and charges were made against him, but nobody has been able to ascertain that because the proceedings were conducted in camera.

Mr. Pal Singh Kooner was subjected to abuses after returning to India on holiday. He was not deported. Nevertheless, his case illustrates the dangers to someone active in Sikh politics because it happened as recently at 12th January 1995. In short, it is not safe to return Sikh activists or human rights workers who are refused asylum in the United Kingdom.

Turning now to Kashmir, it has been estimated by the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference, the umbrella organisation which includes most of the parties opposed

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to Indian rule of the portion of the state they have occupied since 1947, that since the intifada began in January 1990, 42,160 people have been killed, 27,021 wounded and 35,836 disabled for life. There is abundant evidence of continuing extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual abuse and collective punishment of villages and towns. As the US State Department says,


    "Under the J & K Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (J & K) Special Powers Act, both passed in July 1990, security forces have extraordinary powers, including authority to shoot suspected lawbreakers and those disturbing the peace, and to destroy structures suspected of harbouring militants or arms".

The Government's perception of the situation in Kashmir is of return to relative order, as I think the noble Baroness said in an earlier intervention. I am not sure how closely she monitors the situation, but we are constantly drawing the attention of Ministers to events that have happened very recently which indicate a continuing pattern of abuse which is as bad as anything that has happened in the past. The Foreign Office knows, for example, about the killing of Mr. Jalil Andrabi which happened at the end of March. It knows about a case even more recent than that when armed police entered the precincts of the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, one of the holiest places in Kashmir, and after some altercation shot dead 11 members of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front who were in the precincts of the shrine. When the rest of them withdrew to the shrine itself, a bargain was reached by the intercession of one of the people who had been custodian of that place, that they were to withdraw from the shrine, and they were then to be given free movement by the Indian authorities. When they withdrew to a building nearby, the Indian authorities broke the bargain and stormed the building, killing 24 people and reducing the building to rubble.

In summary, that is the situation in Kashmir at the moment. The noble Baroness when she comes to reply will have to say how you can reconcile a situation of gross human rights violations such as we have there with the placing of India on any list which accelerates the procedures for dealing with applicants for asylum from such countries. At this late hour I shall rest my case there, although I know that there are others who would like to say more on the question of Kashmir in particular. I beg to move.


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