India Fails Its Own Constitution in Kashmir - Amnesty International
India has neglected international obligations and its own constitution by ignoring human rights violations allegedly carried out in the name of national security in Jammu and Kashmir state, an Amnesty International report released Wednesday says.
The damning report titled “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir,” by the London-based rights group is based on the examination of nearly 100 cases of alleged human rights abuses by security forces between 1990 and 2012 and interviews with 58 family members of the victims in 2013.
The report says that no member of the security forces deployed in the northern-most state over the past 25 years of militancy in the region has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court.
“An absence of accountability has ensured that security force personnel continue to operate in a manner that facilitates serious human rights violations,” the group says in the report.
All of the families interviewed by Amnesty International India said that “they had little or no faith that those responsible for human rights violations will be brought to justice.”
Spokesmen for India’s defense ministry and ministry of home affairs, under which military and paramilitary forces function, said they weren’t able to comment on the report immediately.
The disputed region of Kashmir has been a site of conflict between India and Pakistan since the Partition in 1947. The two countries each control parts of the territory but claim it in full and have fought three wars over it. An armed insurgency that erupted in the late 1980s claimed the lives of thousands of people, many of them civilians.
India has deployed tens of thousands of army, paramilitary and police forces to squash militancy in the region. Many local civilians and activists have alleged that the security forces are responsible for crimes including murder, kidnap and rape.
The Amnesty report castigates both India’s state security forces and non-state armed groups for human rights abuses. “In general, victims of human rights abuses in the state have been unable to secure justice, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a state or non-state actor,” the group says.
But the report notes that civilian deaths as a result of firing by Indian security forces, while now less frequent than in the 1990s and early 2000s, “remain disturbingly regular.”
- Kashmiri woman shout anti Indian slogans near a body of Fayaz Ahmad during his funeral preparations in Srinagar on Sept. 18, 2010. Fayaz was injured during an anti-India protest on Sept. 14, 2010 and succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.
- Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
In 2013, the report says, 12 people, who had no links to militancy, according to police officials quoted in the local media, died at the hands of Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. “Government-ordered enquiries into each of these deaths remain closed to public scrutiny, and no action appears to have been taken by the authorities to complete criminal investigations in a timely manner and prosecute suspects,” the report says.
It points out that legislation like the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990–which gives security officials special enforcement powers to act against alleged terrorists and separatists and protects them against civilian prosecution—do not conform with international human rights standards or the Indian Constitution that guarantees right to life, justice and remedy.
The controversial law—AFSPA—makes it mandatory to have permission from the federal government before trying members of the army or other security forces in civilian courts. “Authorities maintain that sanction provisions are necessary to prevent the filing of false cases against security force personnel by militant or terrorist groups,” the report says, adding that this casts doubt on the legitimacy of complaints.
The international rights group makes a slew of recommendations to the federal authorities and state government in Jammu and Kashmir. It asks both the federal and state governments to take immediate steps to start independent and impartial investigations into all cases of alleged human rights violations by security forces and to prosecute the suspects in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards. It asks the federal government to repeal AFSPA and “ensure that all other national security legislation complies fully with India’s international legal obligations and is in line with international standards.”
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