Amnesty wants India to revoke 'draconian' Kashmir law

Indian military commit crimes with impunity in occupied Kashmir under protection of controversial AFSPA law, rights watchdog says

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Amnesty International has urged India to revoke a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to security forces in the Indian-held Jammu Kashmir region and provides immunity for those accused of human right violations.

In a report released on Wednesday, Amnesty said no members of the Indian military engaged in human rights violations in Muslim-populated Kashmir were taken to court over the last 25 years, because New Delhi has denied permission to prosecute them.

The law, Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, dubbed "draconian" by many experts gives soldiers authority to shoot to kill and to arrest people without warrants, also allowing them to seize property without being charged with any crimes. July 2015 will mark 25 years since the AFSPA came into force in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It also provides virtual immunity from prosecution by requiring prior permission from the Central Government before security personnel can be prosecuted. This permission is virtually never given,” the report stated, calling for an "independent and impartial" inquiry into abuse allegations.

“An absence of accountability has ensured that security force personnel continue to operate in a manner that facilitates serious human rights violations,” Amnesty said, adding that this contributes to further alienation of local people.

"By not addressing human rights violations committed by security force personnel in the name of national security, India has not only failed to uphold its international obligations, but has also failed its own constitution," said Minar Pimple, the group's senior director of global operations.

The report titled “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir” is based on dozens of human rights abuse cases between 1990 and 2012, as well as interviews with family members of the victims.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and the two countries have fought over the region since the partition of India in 1947.

Since 1989 different Kashmiri groups have been fighting for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan against Indian rule. India has deployed tens of thousands of army, paramilitary and police forces into the region.

More than 100,000 Kashmiri people have been killed under the occupation, with thousands of people disappearing or being jailed. Indian security forces have also been accused of kidnapping and rape.

Local Kashmiri rights activist Parveena Ahanger, whose son disappeared in 1990 under police custody when he was 16, told Al Jazeera that the Indian military courts are “unreliable” and “dishonest.”

“India has martyred one lakh people (100,000) in Kashmir. More than 8000 disappeared in the custody of army and state police. No one has returned so far. Without this act soldiers involved in the crimes could have been tried in local courts instead of Indian military courts we don’t trust.”

“Many parents have died while seeking whereabouts of their sons... No money or compensation will substitute the lives of our dear ones,” said Ahanger.

Twelve civilians, who had no links to militancy, were killed by Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir in 2013, the report says.

“If the [Indian] army knew they would be charged, and will have to go to court and be prosecuted, they will think ten times before they pull their triggers on an innocent…The AFSPA is a like a blank cheque from the government of India to kill innocents like my nephew,” an uncle of 17-year-old Javaid Ahmad Magray, who was killed in April 2003 by the troops, told Amnesty as quoted in the report.

TRTWorld and agencies