news Wednesday, July 01, 2015 - 05:30
International human rights group Amnesty International India has urged the Indian government to dismantle the culture of impunity for rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and also allow United Nations representatives to visit and investigate allegations of torture and killings by armed forces. In its report titled “Denied: Failures in Accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”, released on Wednesday, Amnesty called for an end to impunity for the armed forces, due to which, “Faith in the government and judiciary is almost non-existent in Jammu and Kashmir.”  Addressing a press conference while releasing the report, Amnesty clarified its position on the Kashmir dispute. Senior Director for Global Operations of Amnesty’s International Secretariat Minal Pimple said: “As an established policy, Amnesty International does not take a position on the legitimacy of territorial claims made over any part of Kashmir. We do not take a position for or against demands for self-determination made by any group. We are also not commenting on military decisions about how and when troops should be deployed.” The main thrust of the report was that the government of India repeal Section 7 of AFSPA, which provides immunity from prosecution to security personnel facing allegations of abuse. “Over two and a half decades later, justice and closure to the families is still denied. And that is the most worrying finding of this research,” said Divya Iyer, Research Manager at Amnesty International India. The report said: "By not addressing human rights violations committed by security force personnel in the name of national security, India has not only failed to uphold its international obligations, but has also failed its own Constitution." Other key recommendations report include that the government of India accept the requests of the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and facilitate their visit to the region. It also recommends that the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence also be allowed given access to the region. Amnesty says its recommendations are based on an analysis of over 100 cases of human rights violations committed between 1990 and 2013, and on interviews with the families of victims, their lawyers, journalists, academics, rights groups, and government officials. Conformity with international law The main thrust of the recommendations was that the Indian government amend its national laws to bring them in conformity with international legislation and practice. It has urged that the Indian government amend military laws to bring the investigation and prosecution of crimes allegedly committed by armed forces within the jurisdiction of civilian courts. Currently, military personnel are tried under various military laws, over which other courts do not have jurisdiction. Amnesty has urged that rights violation allegations against military personnel be tried by civilian courts and not military courts. “Several international bodies have urged that military courts be used only to try military offences, like insubordination and desertion, and that human rights violations be tried only in civilian courts… The soldiers who are appointed to serve on a court-martial, who usually don’t have any legal training, are under the chain of command of the senior military officer who convenes the court-martial. They also depend on the convening officer from promotions and progress in the service. This increases the risk that the officer’s influence will affect the court’s independence and impartiality,” said Shailesh Rai. Amnesty has also recommended that the Indian government define torture in line with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The state government should make public the status and reports of inquiries that it had ordered in various instances of alleged sexual assault, torture, massacres, and killings of civilians over the years, the report says. The report urges the Indian army to make information about past trials public. In the 25 cases where the army found allegations to be “true”, the army disclosed that had taken action against 129 personnel, but declined to make available, the details of any of the total 1,532 complaints that its Human Rights Cell had received as on 2011. It also urged the state and central governments to jointly undertake training for security forces to ensure that they are aware of and uphold international standards for law enforcers and the use of force and firearms by security personnel. In a press release, Amnesty said that its work on AFSPA was a part of its global work against impunity such as in Baltimore, United States; Hong Kong protests, in rights violations in tribal areas of Pakistan by its armed forces.