Srinagar: Two recent videos from Jammu and Kashmir appearing to show the use of torture and excessive force by security forces must lead to the prosecution in civilian courts of those suspected to be responsible, Amnesty International India said on Saturday.
In one video uploaded on 14 April, a man, later identified as 24-year-old Farooq Ahmad Dar from Khansahib, Budgam is seen strapped to the front of a moving Indian Army jeep. A soldier can be heard saying, “This will be the fate of people who throw stones.” Some media reports later quoted unnamed Army sources as saying that Army officials had tied Farooq Dar to the jeep as a ‘human shield’ to deter people from throwing stones at their convoy.
Amnesty International India met Farooq Dar on 14 April. He had several bruises and a dislocated wrist. He told Amnesty International India that he had been detained by Army personnel while he was traveling to Gampora village on his motorcycle on 9 April, the day of polling for a parliamentary by-election. He said, “Army personnel took my voter identity card and started beating me. Then they tied me to the front bumper of one of their jeeps… For five hours and 15 minutes, from 11 am to 4.15 pm, I was tied to the army jeep and was driven through different villages, for about 27 kilometres.” He was released only later that evening. The Army has said it is verifying the contents of the video. The state police have registered a First Information Report.
“What Farooq Ahmad Dar was subjected to is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture,” said Zahoor Wani, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India. “Whether Army personnel in this case wanted to deter stone-throwers, or intimidate people by making an example of Farooq Dar, such conduct is unlawful and unacceptable. Authorities should bring to justice those responsible, including those with command responsibility, in a civilian court. Army officials must think carefully about the signals that such demeaning acts send to ordinary people in Kashmir. They should not block prosecution using the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.”
A second video appears to show the killing of 17-year-old Akeel Ahmad Wani by personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, a paramilitary force, near a polling station in Beerwah, Budgam, on 9 April. Akeel Wani was part of a group throwing stones at security force personnel near the polling station. In the video, security force personnel are seen shooting from behind a wall at the protesters a short distance away.
Nazir Ahmed Wani, Akeel’s uncle, told Amnesty International India, “Akeel was shot on left side of his face. We got a phone call informing us about the incident. Before we reached the spot, a local Sikh youth, who lives near the school, had taken Akeel to a public health centre, from where he was taken to a hospital. However he was declared brought dead.” The state police have registered a criminal case.
“Security forces are entitled to use force against violent protesters, but it must be both necessary and proportional. The video appears to show personnel firing live ammunition at close range at stone throwers, which exceeds what is an acceptable use of force,” said Zahoor Wani.
“The central government must ensure that those suspected of using excessive force in this incident and others on polling day are not shielded from justice, like many others have been in the past.”
The two videos were uploaded on social networking sites following the resumption of internet services, which had been shut down for five days in certain districts in Kashmir. There has been widespread outrage over another recently-uploaded video, which shows a member of a paramilitary force being heckled and kicked by protesters as he makes his way out of a polling station on 9 April. Three people have been arrested over the incident.
“There has rightly been appreciation of the restraint shown by certain security force personnel in dealing with violent protesters. Law enforcement officials must use force only when necessary and to the extent required to perform their duties. Intentional lethal force must only be used when unavoidable and in order to protect life,” said Zahoor Wani.
Several violent clashes took place between protesters and security forces on 9 April. The Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission has asked the state police to submit a detailed report on the killings of eight people by security forces, which includes people reported to have been killed by arbitrary or excessive force. Another by-election is scheduled to take place in Anantnag on 25 May.