India: Gujarat one year on - Amnesty International demands justice for all victims and survivors
Amnesty International is calling for action to identify and issue proceedings against state officials who failed to act to control the violence.
The human rights organisation also expressed concern that basic civil and political rights continue to be violated in the state of Gujarat, and in particular that there has been severe bias against Muslim victims and survivors of the Godhra massacres. Investigations have often been carried out by police officers who were at best bystanders during the massacres or at worst actively colluded with attackers when the violence was taking place.
Amnesty International has endorsed the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission in India that:
- action should be taken immediately to identify and proceed against the state officials who failed to control the violence;
- critical cases should be entrusted to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI);
- Special Courts should be set up to try such cases and Special Prosecutors appointed as necessary.
These reforms have so far been ignored.
'The lack of justice, relief and rehabilitation for the victims and survivors of the massacres in Gujarat re-enact a scenario seen far too many times in India in the aftermath of mass violence. If the credibility of the criminal justice system in the country is to be upheld, justice must be delivered to the victims and their families,' said Amnesty International.
Double standards applied during the investigations are evident from the fact that in the post-Godhra massacres (where the victims were largely Muslim), many people charged with crimes as serious as murder have received bail and the charge of conspiracy has rarely been considered. In the Godhra case (where the victims were largely Hindu) however, most of those charged are kept in detention and the charge of conspiracy has been clearly made. The draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act - containing insufficient safeguards of the rights of the accused - is being applied to the suspects in the Godhra case.
In many cases of post-Godhra violence police have recorded complaints in a highly unsatisfactory manner, witnesses' statements and corroborative evidence have not been thoroughly collected, and accusations against well known suspects have not been investigated by police.
Following an attack on a train in Godhra, Gujarat, on 27 February 2002 in which 59 Hindus were killed, violence of unprecedented brutality targeting the Muslim community spread in the state and continued in the next three months, leaving more than 2000 people killed. The state government, administration and police took insufficient action to protect civilians and in many cases may have colluded with the attackers and actively participated in the violence.