Government silence on impunity in Jammu and Kashmir
Once again, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to respond to concerns that grave and massive human rights violations will be ignored and the perpetrators will be allowed to go unpunished.
Amnesty International wrote to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir one month ago, urging it to ensure that a series of unlawful killings in March and April should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.
'It is a sad indicator that the protection and promotion of human rights is not a priority for the Government. As no response to the report has been received, Amnesty International is publishing its report and urges individuals, human rights groups and governments around the world to join the organisation in opposing impunity in Jammu and Kashmir,' Amnesty International said.
Following the three connected incidents in which almost 50 people were unlawfully killed, Amnesty International said the killings should be promptly investigated by independent and impartial judicial inquiries, that the terms of reference of the inquiries as well as the inquiry reports should be made public and that the individuals responsible should be criminally prosecuted.
This is not the first time the organisation has received no response to substantive submissions on human rights issues. Despite several requests by Amnesty International for a dialogue, both the Union Government and the state government have failed to respond to a report about some 700-800 ' disappearances published by the organisation in February 1999.
In response to a May 2000 report on the abuse of preventive detention legislation in Jammu and Kashmir, Amnesty International has so far only received a two page extract of safeguards contained in the Public Safety Act. This response ignored Amnesty International's concern that the law violates international human rights standards, is frequently abused and that people are often held in preventive detention without reference to any law.
The rights to life and physical integrity may not be suspended under any circumstances under international human rights law yet the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has not shown any commitment to safeguard these rights. Recent letters about the rising number of custodial deaths and extrajudicial executions reported from the state have also been left unanswered.
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has a responsibility to investigate human rights violations and bring perpetrators to justice. While they maintain their silence, unlawful killings will continue and civilians will be left unprotected.
On 20 March 2000, 35 Sikhs in Chithisinghpora were shot dead by a groups of unidentified gunmen wearing army uniforms. To date it is not known who perpetrated these killings. Five days later, five men were killed in Panchalthan in what army sources described as an 'encounter' between 'armed militants' and security forces. Government officials claimed the men had been involved in the targeted killing of the Sikhs.
On 3 April seven people were shot dead when police used excessive force against demonstrators who demanded that the bodies of the five men killed on 25 March be exhumed to establish their identities. The demonstrators claimed that they were ordinary villagers and had no links with armed groups and had in fact been arrested and extrajudicially executed
A judicial inquiry has been set up to investigate the incident on 3 April but the other unlawful killings are not being investigated by independent judicial inquiries contrary to earlier government assurances.