New Delhi, August 12: Responding to the reports of the Indian army authorities inquiring into the alleged extrajudicial execution of three labourers by its troops on 18 July 2020 in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir, Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India has asked for an independent and transparent investigation into the extrajudicial execution of three civilians.
“Amnesty International India calls for the extrajudicial execution to be investigated and prosecuted by independent civilian authorities. Civilian investigations and trials offer a degree of transparency and independence that is missing from the military justice system.”
The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party has stated that in cases of human rights violations by security forces, investigations should be carried out by civilian authorities in order to ensure independence. This has also been affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. The Supreme Court of India has also criticised the military justice system and recommended reforms on a number of occasions. Military law experts in India have acknowledged inherent defects within the Indian military justice system, particularly its lack of independence.
Amnesty International India has previously documented the propensity of army authorities to almost categorically dismiss allegations of human rights violations against their personnel. In its latest Situation Update and Analysis from Jammu and Kashmir, Amnesty International India has documented the closure of the State Human Rights Commission along with six other commissions, including the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights, which has left the people of Jammu & Kashmir with absolutely no redressal for their human rights violations. This is a violation of their right to remedy as guaranteed by the ICCPR.
On 18th July 2020, the Indian army said three terrorists were killed in the higher reaches of Shopian in South Kashmir. However, no further details were shared. Later on 6th August 2020, Families in Jammu region’s Rajouri filed written complaints saying three men involved in labour work were missing from the same area. On 19 August 2020, the Defence spokesperson issued a statement saying the army had noted social media inputs linked to the operations at Shopian and were ‘investigating the matter.’
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is in force in Jammu and Kashmir, is an abusive law that feeds a cycle of impunity for human rights violations. The law grants virtual immunity to members of the security forces from prosecution for alleged human rights violations said Amnesty in its statement.
In 2018, in their statement in Parliament, the Ministry of Defence stated that in the last 26 years zero permissions have been granted to prosecute soldiers in J&K. These include cases of soldiers accused of unlawful killings, torture, and rape.
In Jammu and Kashmir, ensuring accountability would include ensuring access to information for victims and families during police investigations, and guaranteeing due process when victims attempt to bring complaints against their abusers. Amnesty International India has repeatedly called for the repeal of AFSPA since it facilitates immunity and impunity for human rights violations. (CNS)