The annual report of the US Department of State has painted a grim picture of human rights situation in Kashmir, saying that no prosecution of accused soldiers has been allowed for 28 years as armed forces special powers act (AFSPA) has been in vogue in J&K.
The report reads that the Jammu and Kashmir human rights commission does not have the authority to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by members of paramilitary security forces.
“The National Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction over all human rights violations, except in certain cases involving the army. The NHRC has authority to investigate cases of human rights violations committed by Ministry of Home Affairs paramilitary forces operating under the AFSPA in the northeast states and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states. “According to the OHCHR report on the Human Rights situation in Kashmir, there has been no prosecution of armed forces personnel in the nearly 28 years that the AFSPA has been in force in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The report said that in cases other than those involving “security risks, terrorism, insurgency”, or cases arising in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, police may detain an individual without charge for up to 30 days, although an arrested person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest.
“Lengthy arbitrary detention remained a significant problem due to overburdened and under-resourced court systems and a lack of legal safeguards. Arraignment of detainees must occur within 24 hours unless authorities hold the suspect under a preventive detention law,” the report states, adding, that “the law allows police to summon individuals for questioning, but it does not grant police pre-arrest investigative detention authority. There were incidents in which authorities allegedly detained suspects beyond legal limits. By law authorities must allow family members’ access to detainees, but this was not always observed.”
The Public Safety Act (PSA), which applies only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, permits state authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visits from family members, the report reads. “Authorities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir allowed detainees’ access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police allegedly and routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention,” the report reads.
It reads that NCRB data from 2015 showed most individuals awaiting trial spent more than three months in jail before they could secure bail, and nearly 65 percent spent between three months and five years before being released on bail.
“There were reports of political prisoners and detainees. NGOs reported the state of Jammu and Kashmir held political prisoners and temporarily detained individuals under the PSA. The Jammu and Kashmir state government reported that more than 1,000 prisoners were detained under the PSA between March 2016 and August 2017,” it adds. “According to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, political prisoners made up one-half of all state detainees.”
The report states that various domestic and international human rights organizations continued to express serious concern at the use of pellet guns by “security forces for crowd control purposes in Kashmir.”
“HRW reported that according to official government figures, 17 individuals died from pellet gun injuries between July 2016 and August 2017. Former CM for J&K Mehbooba Mufti told the state legislative assembly that pellet guns injured 6,221 people in Kashmir between July 2016 and February 2017,” the report reads.
“Human rights groups maintained that military, paramilitary, and insurgent forces abducted numerous persons,” the report states. “On August 29 and 30 (2018), family members of five policemen were abducted by suspected HM militants. Media reports indicated nine persons were abducted in what was seen as HM’s retaliation for the arrest of some family members of HM militants and the killing of their leader, Altaf Dar, by security forces on August 29. This was the first time since 1990 that militants abducted family members of the Jammu and Kashmir police.”
“Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities,” the report states. “Three incidents of child recruitment and conscription by separatist groups were reported in Jammu and Kashmir; unverified reports also indicated children were used as informants and spies by national security forces,” the report reads.