Ramban Killings: AI, HRW Urge Independent Inquiry

SRINAGAR: Global rights bodies Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch have urged authorities in Kashmir to avoid excessive use of force and investigate Ramban killings.

In a statement released to the press, Amnesty said: “Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must avoid excessive use of force while policing demonstrations.

“Dozens of people have been injured in many parts of Jammu and Kashmir in widespread clashes between security forces and protestors. The protests began on July 18, when four people were killed by paramilitary forces in Ramban district.

“Protesters have defied curfew regulations and held violent demonstrations. Authorities have reportedly used excessive force, including firing live ammunition against protestors.

“Amnesty International India calls on authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to protect the right to life in accordance with the constitution of India and international law – including the International covenant on civil and political rights, to which India is a state party – and international standards, in particular the UN basic principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials and the code of conduct for law enforcement officials.

“Law enforcement officials must always apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, including when policing public demonstrations. They must use force with restraint, and only when it is absolutely necessary and proportional to the threat to public safety.

“Firearms should only be used as a last resort, and the intentional lethal use of firearms must only be employed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

“Amnesty International India urges authorities to conduct a full, impartial and effective investigation into any possible excessive use of force by security forces in J&K, and all deaths or serious injuries caused by the use of force or firearms. All suspects, including those with command responsibility, must be prosecuted in a competent, independent and impartial civilian court,” the statement said.

Meanwhile in a separate statement The Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged India to appoint an independent commission to promptly and transparently investigate the killing of protesters by Border Security Force (BSF) in Ramban. 

According to media reports, the HRW said the Indian government should act to end the BSF’s long standing impunity for the large number of killings over the past many years, adding the death of four protesters and wounding of nearly a dozen more people highlighted the urgency for an independent enquiry. 

HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly said the loss of lives in Ramban mosque called for a prompt investigation by an independent commission. “Any findings of illegal use of force by BSF troops should result in prosecutions. Too often the BSF’s version of events is simply accepted, allowing many unaccountable killings,” she added. The HRW said senior Indian officials responded appropriately to the incident but there was a need to follow up with the required action. 

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde promised an investigation and said “any use of excessive force or irresponsible action will be dealt with strictly”, it added. However, HRW also pointed out that previous investigations of BSF abuses had often been delayed and prosecutions stalled. The statement said the HRW had previously documented serious human rights violations by the BSF troops but the Indian government had failed to prosecute the troops responsible. Enquiries by Indian National Human Rights Commission received a standard response that the fatalities occurred when troops had to fire in self-defence, it deplored.

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