India Urged To Prosecute Kashmir Soldiers9 June 2010
Srinagar: Human Rights Watch has urged India to prosecute soldiers accused of killing three men during an alleged fake gunbattle in the disputed region of Kashmir. The Indian military said the victims were rebels who were killed when it foiled an infiltration by militants along the Line of Control, the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. But the victims' families said they were innocent civilians who had been abducted by the army three days before the supposed battle on April 30. The army has suspended an officer and removed another from his command pending enquiries into the killings. 'If the army is serious about punishing those responsible for this latest incident, it will transfer the suspects to the police for trial in a civilian court,' Meenakshi Ganguly, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said late Tuesday. 'Given the army's poor record in holding its soldiers accountable, there is no reason to believe that a military court can be trusted to deliver justice.' She said the killing of the three men underscores the urgency for the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The act gives soldiers wide powers to shoot, arrest and search suspects, and is widely detested by Kashmiris. Ganguly said the army officers implicated in two other cases of faked gunbattles in 2000 and 2007 were never handed over to the police for arrest and prosecution. Muslim-majority Kashmir is in the grip of a 20-year-old insurgency against Indian rule that has so far left more than 47,000 people dead by an official count.