Jammu and Kashmir authorities must immediately release a teenage girl and her father and aunt who are being detained in ‘protective custody’ by the police in Handwara, Kupwara district. Pending their release, they must be granted prompt access to their family and lawyers. The girl has been detained since 12 April, and her family members since 13 April.

“A teenage girl who has been allegedly sexually assaulted needs to receive sensitive and respectful treatment from the authorities, and not be herself detained in police custody,” said Zahoor Wani, Campaigner, Amnesty International India.

“If the family needs protection, they should receive it at a location of their choosing.”

Media reports quote a senior state police official as stating that the family had asked for police protection, but the girl’s mother has denied this claim.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which is hearing a petition for the release of the girl and her relatives, has asked the state government to respond to allegations that the three are being illegally detained. The case will next be heard on 20 April.

Five people have been killed since 12 April when protests broke out in Handwara over allegations that the girl was sexually assaulted by a soldier from the Indian Army. A widely circulated video purportedly shows the girl later denying the assault. The girl’s family has claimed that the statement was made under duress.

The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) – a prominent human rights organization – said that it was denied permission by the state police today to hold a press conference with the mother of the teenage girl. The mother has said that family members have not been allowed to meet the three detainees.

“The police has not given us any valid reason for keeping these three people in protective custody. The act of recording a video statement of a minor girl in the absence of her family violates a minor on multiple counts.It is a shameless and illegal act,” added said Khurram Pervez of the JKCCS.