Srinagar: Human Rights Watch on Friday issued a statement demanding that the Indian authorities should immediately order an independent, impartial investigation into the killings by security forces of three people in July 2020 in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Security forces have long operated with impunity in Kashmir, and past army investigations have been more focused on shielding those responsible for abuse than providing justice,” the statement quoted Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, saying.
There can be no end to the cycle of violence in Kashmir if security forces are not held accountable for their past and current abuses,” the statement said.
The New York based organisation further said that “Any army investigation into the recent killings will be meaningless because the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives the security forces effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses and grants the military wide powers to arrest, shoot to kill, and occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations.”
Explaining further, the statement said that “Since the law came into force in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, the Indian government has not granted permission to prosecute any security force personnel in civilian courts,” adding that “Human Rights Watch and others have long documented how the law has become a tool of state abuse, oppression, and discrimination, and called for its repeal. Affected residents, activists, government-appointed committees, politicians, and United Nations human rights bodies have criticized the law.”
Mentioning the Indian officials’ claim that troops need such powers because the army is only deployed when national security is at serious risk from armed groups, the statement said that “the [Indian] Supreme Court has said that all killings by security forces should be investigated and that such force was not permissible even in an area declared as a disturbed area under AFSPA and against militants, insurgents and terrorists.”
“There have been numerous allegations of extrajudicial killings in Jammu and Kashmir,” the statement said, adding that “Most of those summarily executed are falsely reported to have died during armed clashes between the army and militants in what are euphemistically called encounter killings.”
“The Indian authorities have failed the Kashmiri people and have long denied them justice for decades of abuses by security forces, leading to a cycle of unending violence,” Ganguly said.
“The government should repeal AFSPA, ensure a civilian and independent investigation into the latest killings, and reverse its ongoing restrains on basic rights.”
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