Nita Bhalla in New Delhi

From AlterNet: ICRC defends disclosure of India torture findings to US

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has defended passing sensitive information about India torturing prisoners to U.S. officials, saying it was “frustrated due to the lack of dialogue” with New Delhi.

The Geneva-based humanitarian organisation helps people affected by insecurity, violence and armed conflict and — due to its promise of confidentiality and impartiality — has access to some of the world’s most volatile hot spots.

But according to a 2005 cable, released by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian newspaper, the ICRC told American diplomats in New Delhi that it had found systematic prisoner abuse by Indian security forces during detention centre visits in Kashmir from 2002 and 2004.

The cable said the ICRC had told U.S. diplomats that Indian police and paramilitary, who are fighting a 20-year insurgency in Kashmir, beat suspects, subjected them to electric currents and tortured them with water in widespread human rights abuses.

“We confirm that a meeting took place between the ICRC and the U.S. embassy in 2005 at a time in which the ICRC was very frustrated due to the lack of dialogue with the Indian authorities,” Alexis Heeb, the ICRC’s spokesman in New Delhi, told AlertNet.

“The ICRC works always in a confidential way with the authorities. However, in specific instances, when the dialogue is blocked for different reasons, we may change our strategy.”

Among 1,500 detainees that the ICRC staff met, more than half reported “ill-treatment”, the cable reported. Of the 852 cases 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.

The cable revealed the ICRC 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 government of India condones torture”.

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