Jammu and Kashmir: Attacks on hospitals and medics must be prosecuted

‘Heavy-handedness by those policing the protests risks exacerbating a situation that is already tense’ -  Zahoor Wani

The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must stop using pellet-firing shotguns, only use live ammunition as a last resort and ensure that people injured in shootings by the security forces have safe access to medical assistance, Amnesty International said today.

The call comes after a weekend of violence in which at least 23 people died and hundreds have been injured in clashes over the death of the leader of a separatist group on Friday. Burhan Wanin was the leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, a banned armed group, and was killed in a gunfight with the Indian army on Friday prompting mass protests.

Two children were among the 23 killed by shots fired by the security forces during the demonstrations, with a further 200 people injured. 

A policeman was also killed after his vehicle was pushed into a river by a mob in Anantnag district. The state police have reported other attacks on police, including the targeting of police stations and other public property, and the looting of weapons. Scores of police are reported to have been injured.

Protestors and doctors have reported that injured people have been attacked on their way to hospitals, and even in the hospitals. Doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital in Srinagar told Amnesty that the security forces had fired tear gas shells inside the hospital compound and harassed hospital staff.

Doctors also reported multiple eye injuries to protestors following the use of pellet-firing shotguns to police the crowds. The use of pellet-firing shotguns is not in line with international standards on the use of force, as they fire a large number of small pellets spreading over a wide range and cannot ensure well-targeted shots, so risk causing serious injury to bystanders or protesters not engaging in violence.

Zahoor Wani, Amnesty India Campaigner, said:

“Any attacks on health facilities or medical professionals are unacceptable, and must be prosecuted.

“The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have a duty to protect lives, but they must use force only where it is necessary and to the extent required.

“The security forces must distinguish between persons engaging in violence and peaceful demonstrators or bystanders.

“Protestors who engage in human rights abuses must be held accountable for their actions. But any heavy-handedness by those policing the protests risks exacerbating a situation that is already tense.”

A man who was accompanying an injured protestor to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar told Amnesty that they had been stopped by the security forces several times and beaten. He said:

“The security forces cut and pulled out glucose and blood drips from the injured, and the window panes of our vehicle were also broken.”

The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights organisation, said in a statement: "Besides the protestors, the CRPF [a paramilitary force] and police at various places have assaulted the patients and attendants inside the hospitals and ambulances...Since Saturday, at least four times the Police and CRPF have raided the hospital.”

Mehbooba Mufti, the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, has said that her government would take note of complaints of the use of disproportionate force by the security forces.

 

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