The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has called for revoking of AFSPA and investigations into the human rights violations in J&K by an “independent and impartial” authority.
Seeking removal of all “requirements of sanction or prior permission” to prosecute security force personnel, Amnesty International has identified “impunity” and “lack of political will” as a long standing problem in J-K.
The demands have been made in the report ‘Denied – Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir’ that was released on Wednesday.
“Impunity is a long-standing problem in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report reads. “The lack of political will to account for past and present actions of the security forces, including the state police, is fortified by legislation and aggravated by other obstacles to justice, especially for those who lack financial resources or education.”
The human rights watchdog has asked the government for an independent and impartial probe into all human rights violations in the state – a demand often made by the separatists.
“Both the Government of India and the Government of Jammu and Kashmir must take immediate steps to ensure that all human rights violations and crimes under international law alleged to have been committed by Indian security forces, including the police, in Jammu and Kashmir are investigated by independent and impartial authorities,” the report recommends. “And where there is sufficient admissible evidence, those accused (should be) prosecuted in proceedings which meet international fair trial standards and do not impose the death penalty”.
Calling the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) as one of the “primary facilitators of impunity” for security forces, the report has demanded its repealing.
“One of the primary facilitators of impunity for security force personnel has been the existence of provisions like Section 7 of the Armed Forces Special Act (AFSPA), 1990 under which members of the security forces are protected from prosecution for alleged human rights violations,” the report says. “Remove all requirements of sanction or any prior executive permission for the prosecution of security force personnel from all relevant legislation including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure”.
The 72-page report documents the “obstacles to justice for victims of human rights violations” and highlights how the government’s response to reports of human rights violations has “failed to deliver justice” for several victims and families.
Describing that the victims of human rights violations and their families in J-K face “intimidation and threats from security forces” if they try to bring cases against the soldiers, the Amnesty report says that not a single security force personnel has been prosecuted in a civilian court.
The report has urged New Delhi to become signatory of international conventions on human rights and asked the Centre to “accept and facilitate” a request from the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance to visit India.
Citing many instances where their RTI applications failed to get a response, Amnesty has called for making the information about the cases pertaining to human rights violations in J-K public.
“Make information pertaining to the proceedings, verdicts and sentences of courts-martial and security force courts publicly accessible including through the Right to Information Act, 2005 and by other means including an online database,” the report recommends.
The report has also sought amendments in the legislations to limit the jurisdiction of military courts. It admits that to address the issue of impunity is a “challenge” but says is essential to ensure justice.