March 2008 News

Abused Kashmir On US Radar

11 March 2008
Kashmir Watch

Srinagar: The US State Department has said that human rights abuses by [Indian] troops continue in Kashmir with a “lack of accountability creating an atmosphere of impunity.” In its ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices -2007’ released on Tuesday, the State Department has highlighted in detail how the Indian troops indulge in fake encounter killings, custodial disappearances, rapes and other rights abuses across the conflict-ridden state. Lack of accountability The (Indian) government “generally respected” the rights of its citizens, it said, adding “However, numerous serious problems remained.” “Major problems included extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture and rape by police and other security forces.” “A lack of accountability permeated the government and security forces throughout the country, creating an atmosphere of impunity,” says the report. Quoting human rights groups, it says the troops targeted suspected militants and their supporters. “But,” it added, “There was no widely accepted data on the magnitude of extrajudicial killings, which included encounter killings and custodial deaths.” “For example, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 18 cases of custodial killings and extrajudicial killings took place during the year. Of those, six cases were under investigation by the local government at year's end. In March, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed that only five custodial deaths occurred during his eighteen-month tenure and that the overall situation improved considerably with a 95 percent reduction in custodial deaths over the last two years.” Referring to the infamous Pathribal incident of April 2000 when troops and the Special Operations Group of police killed five civilians in cold-blood, the State Department said that at the end of 2005, CBI investigation of four army officers, including Senior Superintendent of Police Farooq Khan, was still pending. The report said the state government did not take action in the February 2006 killings of four children by Army at Bangargund village of Kupwara district. While the NHRC had asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to provide a detailed report of the killing, the government had not done so by year's end, it said. Custodial deaths “Custodial deaths, often made to appear as encounter deaths, remained a serious problem, and authorities often delayed prosecutions,” the report said. Chief Minister Azad announced that no custodial disappearances occurred in Kashmir during the year. “(However) there were no developments in the May 2006 case of Ghulam Nabi Mir, who disappeared in Pulwama after Rashtriya Rifle (RR) officers allegedly raided his home,” says the State Department report. Torture In the chapter “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” the report says in Kashmir torture victims or their relatives reportedly had difficulty filing complaints, as local police allegedly were instructed not to open a case without permission from higher authorities. During 2006 the screening committees released 140 persons detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). During the year, the government did not release any additional detainees, the report says. In addition, under the (Jammu and Kashmir) Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1990, no 'prosecution, suit, or other legal proceeding shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers of the act,' without the approval of the central government. Pattern of rape “There was a pattern of rape by paramilitary personnel in Jammu and Kashmir as a means of instilling fear among noncombatants in insurgency-affected areas, but these incidents were not included in NHRC statistics, as the NHRC does not have direct investigative authority over the military,” says the report. Arbitrary arrest In April a Working Group on Kashmir appointed by the prime minister also recommended that the act be revoked. The government had not acted on these recommendations by year's end, the report said. The AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) remained in effect in the Jammu and Kashmir districts of Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri, Doda, Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag (Islamabad), Pulwama, Baramulla, and Kupwara. Disappearances According to the State Department, there was “virtually no information” about the fate of individuals who disappeared since the beginning of anti-India insurgency in Kashmir. “There were no reliable figures for disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir during the year. According to Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and other NGOs such as ACHR and SAHRDC, the number of newly reported disappearances decreased compared with the early years of the conflict,” it said. Passport delay “Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of the government using the issuance of passports or travel documents to restrict travel of separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, says the report. “However, citizens from Jammu and Kashmir continued to face extended delays, often up to two years, before the Ministry of External Affairs would issue or renew their passports. Government officials also regularly demanded bribes before issuing passports from Jammu and Kashmir that required special clearances,” it said. The State Department report also mentioned in detail the sex scandal that rocked Kashmir in 2006. It also blamed militants for “serious abuses, including killing armed forces personnel, police, government officials and civilians.”

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