Srinagar: Amnesty International India on Wednesday said that July 18 ‘gunfight’ in South Kashmir’s Shopian district should be investigated transparently.
Responding to the reports of the Army enquiring into the alleged extrajudicial execution of three labourers by its men on 18 July 2020 in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir, Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India in a statement said, “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.”
He said that 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,” he added.
Executive Director of Amnesty International India further stated that 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 and Kashmir with absolutely no redressal for their human rights violations. This is a violation of their right to remedy as guaranteed by the ICCPR,” he said.
Pertinently, on 18 July 2020, the Army claimed to have killed three militants in the higher reaches of Shopian in South Kashmir. However, no further details were shared, the statement said.
“On 6 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.’,” it added.
The statement further added that 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,” he said.
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 rap, the statement added.
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 said, adding that it has repeatedly called for repealing of AFSPA since it facilitates immunity and impunity for human rights violations.
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