Time for a Renewed Debate on HR, National Security: AI to India

KL Report

SRINAGAR

Amnesty International India has urged the Government of India to repeal the AFSPA, 1958 and 1990, and grant full reparation to victims of human rights violations committed by security forces.

“A recent spate of domestic and international criticism of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and continuing human rights violations enabled by the controversial law must lead to its immediate repeal,” Amnesty International India said on Thursday in a briefing titled “The Armed Forces Special Powers Act: Time For A Renewed Debate in India on Human Rights and National Security.”

“From the Justice Verma Committee to the Justice Hegde Commission to several UN Special Rapporteurs, several expert bodies have now pointed out that the AFSPA enables serious human rights abuses wherever it is in force,” said Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director of Amnesty International India in a statement.

“As these bodies have noted, the AFSPA has not made these areas safer, but has instead led to gross abuse of fundamental human rights of ordinary people. Authorities cannot simply continue to trot out arguments about national security any longer to defend the AFSPA,” the statement said.

The AFSPA provides sweeping powers to members of the security forces, including the power to shoot to kill in situations where they are not at imminent risk, and to arrest people without warrants, and even detain them illegally, often leading to cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.

As per the statement AI India recognizes the duty of nations to protect people from rights abuses and crimes, including those committed by armed groups. However, the AFSPA has been ineffective in meeting these goals, and has instead contributed to the creation of a ‘culture of impunity’ for gross human rights violations in areas where it is operational.

The Justice Santosh Hegde Commission, appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate six cases of ‘fake encounters’ in Manipur, said that “the continuous use of the AFSPA for decades in Manipur has evidently had little or no effect on the situation” and described the law as a “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness”.  It also said that security forces have been “transgressing the legal bounds for counter-insurgency operations.”

“Amnesty International India has also found evidence of continuing violations of international law under the AFSPA,” said Shashikumar Velath.

The statement further said, “These include continuing use of lethal force in both Northeastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir, lack of accountability in cases of alleged human rights violations, and denial of justice to victims.”

The law provides virtual immunity from prosecution, by requiring prior permission from the central government for security personnel to be prosecuted. This permission is almost never granted, and the process of evaluating requests for sanction lacks transparency and judicial oversight.

As per AI India, “The AFSPA violates India’s international legal obligations and several fundamental rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security and the right to remedy. This law has alienated people and is an impediment to achieving peace, and an obstacle to justice.”

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