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People’s Tribunal to investigate Kashmir abuses

Srinagar, April 05, 2008:

Abuses
Rights groups blame Indian security agencies in Kashmir for rampant rights abuses. / Javed Dar

A human rights group in Indian administered Kashmir Saturday launched an international people’s tribunal to investigate human rights violations in the region.

The Public Commission on Human Rights, a constituent of the Srinagar based civil rights group, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said the “International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian administered Kashmir” will inquire into the actions of the Indian state and its institutions, “as widely established by human rights organizations, to examine the structure of militaristic violence on the part of state institutions, and examine conditions of injustice therein”.

The group has roped in activists from India and abroad to be part of the tribunal that will hold its investigations and hearings in 2008-2009.

The tribunal will confine its investigation to the period between November 2003, when the Indo-Pak cease-fire began, and 2009, with supporting investigations related to the period between 1989-2003.

The tribunal Conveners are, Dr. Angana Chatterji, an associate professor of anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Advocate Parvez Imroz, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society. Gautam Navlakha, a New Delhi based journalist and human rights activist. Zaheer-ud-Din, Srinagar based journalist and human rights activist.

The group did not name the tribunal jury, which it said was yet to be finalised.

Explaining the need for the tribunal, Imroz said, “It initiates an international process that looks into complex, systematic, and institutionalized repression in order to engage global civil society in investigating crimes against humanity in Indian-administered Kashmir. This process will inform struggles of Kashmiris for human rights and justice."

In defining the urgency for an international tribunal, Chatterji said, Kashmir reverberates across India as an icon of unification whose continued possession is a must for the assertion of nationalist history and purpose.

“We call upon the international community to join us in investigating India's record in Kashmir, as India, an emergent superpower, argues for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. We seek accountability under provisions of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Constitution of India, and International Law and Conventions, to insist upon reparations, justice, and self-determination," Chatterjee said.

Advocate Desai said that while criminal laws were enough to deal with violence the state uses special laws, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and Public Safety Act (PSA) to subjugate an entire population.

Under the infamous AFSPA an army officer can shoot a person on mere suspicion while under PSA a person can be detained without any charges for up to two years.

The laws are invoked in Indian administered Kashmir in addition to the Disturbed Areas Act which gives overriding powers to police and security agencies.

"The use of harsh laws, lack of transparency, and virtual total impunity and disregard for international law and failure of local institutions cry out for an independent people's tribunal to inquire into the real situation in Kashmir. The Tribunal seeks to unravel its impact and issues, so as to bring out the true picture of Kashmir before the international community," Desai added.

Stressing the need of the tribunal Navlakha said that “Fifteen years of covering the war in Indian administered Kashmir has convinced me that justice is not available to the people who are aggrieved by the war being perpetrated by the Government of India. It is therefore imperative to set up a people's tribunal."

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