India Makes Meek Attempt to Defend AFSPA
Geneva: For months the countries of the United Nations and the global NGO community have been working on the second Universal Periodic Review of the state of human rights in India. Kashmir Centre.EU, along with Kashmir Centre London, has met with a large number of states and other civil society actors and has submitted a substantial shadow report to ensure that the plight of the people of Indian Held Kashmir is reflected in the final document.
A number of countries raised the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows complete immunity of the armed forces along with a host of other powers. The USA, UK, Switzerland, Australia and Norway were particularly vocal on the need to revoke the law which is contrary to international human rights norms.
Of further concern was the lack of ratification of the Convention Against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Person From Disappearance.
However, in its response India once again defended the AFSPA citing the need to fight insurgency and terrorism. KCEU notes that the army themselves recently stated that “there are no more than 13 militants currently operating in Kashmir” and once again calls for the AFSPA to be revoked. Further, the Indian representative stated that the AFSPA “is under constant review” and that they have “a zero tolerance policy to human rights abuse”. KCEU believes that the ongoing torture, deaths, arrests and impunity that result from the AFSPA show this statement to be inaccurate.
Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of KCEU, was present at the UN meeting in Geneva where recommendations and questions were put to the Indian representative. He said “while we have seen some strong comments from a number of nations regarding the inability of India, despite previous commitments, to ratify the Convention Against Torture and the Convention for the Protection of All Person From Disappearance – issues that we have pressed hard to have included – we regret to see that no nation raised the ongoing discovery of mass graves and the lack of investigation thereof.”
Commenting on the Convention Against Torture Tramboo said “in the first Indian UPR in 2008 the Government accepted a recommendation to ratify the CAT. Sadly no progress has been made in the last 5 years. As shown in Kashmir the problem of torture is so widespread within the Indian military and para-military forces that they are simply unable to sign and abide by the convention.”
On the issue of mass graves he said “the original discovery of the mass graves in Uri happened in 2008 just after the first Indian UPR. It is shocking to see that the states of the United Nations did not see fit to raise this issue especially with the discovery of almost 3000 more towards the end of the last year. KCEU will continue to fight on all human rights issues in Kashmir and we reaffirm our commitment to raise awareness in the international community until concrete steps are made to improve the lives of the people of Indian Held Kashmir.”
Prof. Nazir Shawl, Chairman of Kashmir Centre London, noted that “India has come under some heavy scrutiny for its actions in Kashmir. Sadly in the most part this was from the western nations. We have been in Geneva for several weeks advocating a certain path for the Indian UPR and we cannot guess where it would have been if the Kashmiri diaspora had not been here to raise awareness and push the case for the people of Indian Held Kashmir. We look forward to, and will be present for, the adoption of recommendations which will take place next week and we will push for the inclusion of the above elements.”
In the meantime KCEU will continue to meet with all relevant actors to lobby for the inclusion of the above elements.