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India gang-rape shootings revives extrajudicial killing fears

NEW DELHI – The shooting of four gang-rape and murder suspects by Indian police has highlighted the scourge of extrajudicial killings in a nation grappling with high levels of sexual crimes and a notoriously slow judicial process.

Authorities claimed the four men were killed in a “shootout” during a re-enactment of the attack, carried out just under two weeks ago, in which a 27-year-old veterinarian was raped and murdered, before her body was burnt.

Police were feted with rose petals, and crowds took to the streets cheering the men’s deaths, saying “swift justice” had been meted out.

“The law has done its duty,” local police chief V.C. Sajjanar told reporters.

These kind of deaths – dubbed “encounters” in South Asia – where police claim suspects were killed trying to resist arrest or while escaping from custody, are part of a well-worn script trotted out by authorities.

But human rights campaigners warned of a deepening culture of impunity as police take the law into their own hands.

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