Srinagar, March 26 : Stressing that there has to be accountability for every case in Kashmir, United Nations Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary and arbitrary executions Christof Heyns upon his arrival here on a fact finding mission today said, if there is a danger to right to life, all the other guaranteed rights become futile for the people living in the region.
Soon after his arrival here Monday afternoon, Christof Heyns divulged itinerary and purpose of his visit to beleaguered Valley.
“My mandate covers all killings that are in violation of international human rights or humanitarian law. The focus of the visit is also on preventing such incidents and that justice is meted out to the victims,” he said.
Heyns is on a two-week visit to India and this is for the first time that the UN Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary and arbitrary executions has been allowed to visit Kashmir.
Heyns who met police officials, lawyers, academicians, human rights activists and families of the missing and other victims of violence, said he would release a preliminary report at the end of his visit in Delhi and after that, submit his final report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).
Parveena Ahangar, president Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, who hosts the Special Rapporteur in Srinagar, urged him to persuade the Government of India to make public whereabouts of missing people in Kashmir.
APDP submitted a report to him and it included copies of the cases of enforced disappearances submitted by the organization to the UN in 2008.
Senior advocate Zaffar Shah who shared the stage with Heyns, said sweeping powers like the Public Safety Act (PSA) and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) were available to the authorities which made normal judicial remedies unavailable to those seeking judicial intervention against misuse of powers by the security forces in Kashmir.
The Special UN Rapporteur later had a closed-door interaction with the victims of alleged security forces excesses and those whose family members have been missing during the last 20 years of turmoil in Kashmir.
Shah, in his opening remarks contextualized the political and the legal regime under which the killings are taking place in Jammu and Kashmir and the lack of accountability of the security forces.
He highlighted how “draconian laws like AFSPA, created impunity”. He also underscored that for decades no institution was delivering justice to the large number of victims, APDP statement said.
To give a firsthand testimony to the “rampant extra judicial killings” in Kashmir, the primary focus of the event was to facilitate meetings with the affected families whose young children, women and men had been killed by the government forces, APDP said further.
“A large number of victims of fake encounter killings, targeted and indiscriminate extrajudicial killings, and 2010 killings of children and young protestors presented their testimonies and submitted relevant documents.”
These included the family members of those killed in Pathribal, Ganderbal, Machil ‘fake encounters’. “Masooda Parveen (wife of Ghulam Mohidin Regoo), Shakeel Ahmed Ahangar (representing victim family of Shopian rape and murder), Mohammad Ashraf Magray, Farooq Ahmed Sheikh (Zahid Farooq Killing), Fayaz Ahmed Rah (Sameer Rah Killing), Ahamadulla Khanday, Sabzar Ahmad, Talib-ul-Islam (Ishtiyaq Khanday, Imtiyaz Ahmed and Shujat-ul-Haq killing, Anantnag), Mohammad Ramzan (Adil Ramzaan Killing , Palhalan), and Farooq Ahmad (Wamiq Farooq Killing), also gave the firsthand testimony.”
The update on the killing of Jalil Andrabi, a human rights defender and lawyer, abducted and killed in 1996, was given by Riffat Andrabi and Arshad Andrabi. “Their testimony exemplified the absolute impunity enjoyed by the security forces in Kashmir for extrajudicial killings,” the statement said.
Sanjay Tikoo, President, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti and. Satinder Singh from Kashmir Minority Front, highlighted the situation of minorities and in particular the killing of Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs by non-state actors.
“They emphasized that no attention had been paid to investigate and discover the truth behind the brutal massacre of Sikhs in Chhattisinghpora, Mehjoornagar.”
Abdul Qayoom Zargar from Doda put forth his case wherein 8 members of his family were killed and 2 women raped, in 1996. “Till date no legal action has been initiated,” he said.
The APDP said many of the victims and experts requested the Special Rapporteur to highlight the issue of “injustice and impunity in the highly militarized zone of the Kashmir Valley, where draconian laws like AFSPA and Public Safety Act and statutory provisions requiring Executive sanction for prosecution of security forces had debilitated the processes of the legal system.”
“Many of the affected family members said they had no faith left in the institutions of law, justice and governance, as in no case had anyone been held accountable or punished.”
Earlier Heyns told reporters that he will submit his interim report in New Delhi on March 30 and that will be made public the same day. Later, two more reports will be submitted to UN General Assembly, he said.
Heyns said that there has to be accountability for every case in Kashmir.
“Right to life is the foundation of every other right, if you don’t have this right, you cannot have all the other rights in any part, so the protection of this right is a must,” he said.
“This is an utmost duty of the government to make sure that its people are safe, then all the other rights guaranteed for the citizens become rights in real terms,” he said adding “there has to be accountability at every level”. He said that the focus of his visit to the valley will be on the issues of people who have been killed.
Christof Heyns, a Professor of Human Rights Law was appointed as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in August 2010. He has been asked to examine situations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The mandate of the UN Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions covers all killings that were in violation of international human rights or humanitarian law.
“This includes killings by law enforcement officials due to excess use of force during inter alia demonstration and arrests; deaths in custody : killings of vulnerable groups including Human Rights Defenders, journalists, migrants and women.,” said Heyns.
He also said that the mandate would further address killings that are committed by private individuals and were the state fails to adequate prevent or investigate the killings. “The mandate also covers issues of impunity, accountability and compensation for killings”. Observer News service