New York, October 20: The Human Rights Watch has called upon Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to override the army and repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
In a statement placed on its website, the New York-based world human rights body, Human Rights Watch said, “the Indian defense establishment has opposed even minor amendments to the law, despite the findings of independent bodies in India and abroad that the law has resulted in numerous serious human rights violations over many years.
“India’s Home Ministry has proposed amendments, but the army insists that it needs the law to operate in what it calls “disturbed areas.” News reports suggest that the army is blocking an effort to present the amendments for a vote during the upcoming winter session of parliament,” the statement said.
“There is broad recognition …that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be repealed because it has led to so many abuses,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, according to the statement. “Prime Minister Singh should overrule the army and keep his promise to abolish this abusive law,” he added.
The AFSPA grants the armed forces the power to shoot-to-kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. As a result, the armed forces routinely engage in torture and other ill treatment during interrogation in army barracks. The law forbids prosecution of soldiers without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted, the statement added.
The law violates India’s obligations under international human rights law, including the rights to life, to be protected from arbitrary arrest, and to be free from torture and other ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said. “The army supports the Armed Forces Special Powers Act because of the immunity it provides soldiers who commit serious abuses,” Adams said. “It should realize that such abuses fuel public anger…,” it added.-KMS