Washington, April 22: The US State Department in its Annual Human Rights Report for the year 2017 has said that the civilians were reportedly killed in a staged encounter and later accused of being foreign militants. The report mentioned the suspension of life sentences by the Armed Forces Tribunal of five army personnel involved in the 2010 killing of three civilians from Jammu and Kashmir. The report also discusses the draconian law, Public Safety Act, which applies only in Jammu and Kashmir, which permits the authorities to detain persons without charge or judicial review for up to two years without visitation from family members. The report pointed out that police in Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention.
The report further said that of 186 complaints of human rights violations reported against the armed forces under the draconian law Armed Forces Special Powers Act, between 2012 and 2016, 49.5 percent were from Jammu and Kashmir. The report citing family members of the detainees said that the authorities denied access to relatives, particularly in conflict areas including Jammu and Kashmir. It says that prisons were often severely overcrowded, and food, medical care, sanitation, and environmental conditions often were inadequate. Potable water was often unavailable. Prisons and detention centers remained underfunded, understaffed, and lacking sufficient infrastructure. Prisoners were physically mistreated.
Below are main points of US annual Human Rights report on Jammu and Kashmir:-
The NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative noted in its 2016 report that of 186 complaints of human rights violations reported against the armed forces in states under the AFSPA, between 2012 and 2016, 49.5 percent were from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The data supplied by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the RTI Act did not, however, indicate whether complaints were deemed to have merit.
On July 27, the Armed Forces Tribunal suspended the life sentences of five army personnel involved in the 2010 killing of three civilians from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The civilians were reportedly killed in a staged encounter and later accused of being foreign militants.
The law permits preventive detention in certain cases. The National Security Act allows police to detain persons considered security risks anywhere in the country, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir, without charge or trial for as long as one year. The law allows family members and lawyers to visit national security detainees and requires authorities to inform a detainee of the grounds for detention within five days, or 10 to 15 days in exceptional circumstances.
The Public Safety Act, 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 visitation from family members. Authorities allowed detainees access to a lawyer during interrogation, but police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir allegedly routinely employed arbitrary detention and denied detainees access to lawyers and medical attention.
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 Public Safety Act (PSA). More than 650 such cases were registered by the Jammu and Kashmir state government under the PSA through June and referred to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
The UAPA provides an additional legal basis for warrantless searches. The UAPA also allows use of evidence obtained from intercepted communications in terrorist cases. In the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, and Manipur, security officials have special authorities to search and arrest without a warrant.
In July the SHRC directed the state of Jammu and Kashmir to pay one million rupees ($16,000) as compensation to a textile worker who was tied to the front bumper of a military jeep by an army major and used as a human shield against demonstrators in central Kashmir in May. Media reported Major Nitin Gogoi used the victim to prevent an angry mob from attacking military personnel during a parliamentary by-election on April 9. Human rights activists also criticized Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement backing Gogoi’s actions. Gogoi was also awarded the army chief’s commendation card for his action and was not individually punished.
There were few investigations and prosecutions of human rights violations arising from internal conflicts. NGOs claimed that due to AFSPA immunity provisions, authorities did not hold the armed forces responsible for the deaths of civilians killed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in previous years.
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 the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 143 instances in which pellet guns were reportedly used across 12 districts of the Kashmir Valley through July 31, one civilian was killed and 36 were injured. By comparison in 2016 777 instances of pellet gun use across the state of Jammu and Kashmir, mostly during violent protests following the July 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani, left at least 15 civilians dead and 396 injured. In a report during the year, Amnesty International detailed cases of 88 individuals in the country whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by the state of Jammu and Kashmir police and the Central Reserve Police Force in the years 2014-17. Both national and international media sources and NGOs have reported on the harm, both physical and psychological, to individuals injured by pellet guns.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: In June the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting denied permission to screen three films at a film festival in Kerala. Films screened at festivals do not require certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), but they need a censor exemption from the ministry. The three films were about protests at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the unrest in Kashmir, and the suicide of doctoral student activist Rohith Vemula.
In some cases government authorities cited laws protecting national interest to restrict media content. For example, on April 26, the state of Jammu and Kashmir ordered internet service providers to block 22 social media and instant messaging sites, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, for one month after persistent street demonstrations. This was the first time the state government banned individual social media websites rather than restricting internet and data services.
Internet access and services were frequently curtailed during several weeks of violence and curfew in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and occasionally in other parts of the country, including in Haryana during large-scale demonstrations by the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect in August. The government claimed that it was sometimes necessary to restrict access to the internet to prevent violence fueled by social media. According to HRW authorities sometimes failed to follow legal procedures and in some instances ordered shutdowns unnecessarily.
In July and August, the central government’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, based on a complaint filed by the State of Jammu and Kashmir Police, reportedly asked Twitter to block 248 accounts, tweets, and hashtags in view of threats posed by them. The ministry requested that a list of 115 accounts and tweets, which were found “propagating objectionable contents,” be blocked “in the interest of the public order as well as for preventing any cognizable offense….”
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The law provides for freedom of assembly. Authorities often required permits and notification before parades or demonstrations, and local governments generally respected the right to protest peacefully, except in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where the state government sometimes denied permits to separatist political parties for public gatherings, and security forces sometimes reportedly detained and assaulted members of political groups engaged in peaceful protest (see section 1.g.). During periods of civil unrest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, authorities used the law to ban public assemblies or impose curfews.
In-country Movement: The central government relaxed restrictions on travel by foreigners to Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, and parts of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding foreign nationals from Pakistan, China, and Burma. The Ministry of Home Affairs and state governments required citizens to obtain special permits upon arrival when traveling to certain restricted areas.
The trend of delaying issuance and renewal of passports to citizens from the state of Jammu and Kashmir continued, sometimes up to two years. The government reportedly subjected applicants born in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including children born to military officers deployed in the state, to additional scrutiny and police clearances before issuing them passports.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
Authorities located IDP settlements throughout the country, including those containing groups displaced by internal armed conflicts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Maoist-affected areas, the northeastern states (see section 1.g.), and Gujarat. The 2016 annual report of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center asserted that longstanding regional conflicts had displaced at least 796,000 persons. Estimating precise numbers of those displaced by conflict or violence was difficult, because the government does not monitor the movements of displaced persons, and humanitarian and human rights agencies had limited access to camps and affected regions. While authorities registered residents of IDP camps, an unknown number of displaced persons resided outside camps. Many IDPs lacked sufficient food, clean water, shelter, and health care (see section 1.g., Other Conflict-related Abuse).
Human Rights NGOs
The NHRC worked cooperatively with numerous NGOs. Several NHRC committees had NGO representation. Human rights monitors in the state of Jammu and Kashmir were able to document human rights violations, but security forces, police, and other law enforcement authorities reportedly restrained or harassed them at times.
State Human Rights Commission
The Jammu and Kashmir commission does not have the authority to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by members of paramilitary security forces. The NHRC 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.
Rape of Women
Women in conflict areas, such as in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh, as well as vulnerable Dalit or tribal women, were often victims of rape or threats of rape. National crime statistics indicated Dalit women were disproportionately victimized compared with other caste affiliations.
With inputs from Agencies/Web