Working Group on Human Rights slams AFSPA after 13 villagers killed in Assam Rifles firing - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 12 December 2021

Working Group on Human Rights slams AFSPA after 13 villagers killed in Assam Rifles firing


The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the United Nations (WGHR) has slammed the government for a series of incidents in Mon District, Nagaland, in which 13 innocent villagers were killed and many more injured on December 4 and 5. 


The violence began when Assam Rifles troopers, who had received faulty intelligence about the impending movement of Naga insurgents, opened fire on what turned out to be unarmed coal miners returning to their village.


Infuriated Naga villagers in turn attacked an Assam Rifles camp, killing a trooper and injuring several. The
Nagaland government, under local pressure, has formed a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police to probe the incident.


“This is not the first time that gross human rights violations have been committed under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) that grants legal immunity for all acts to armed forces when enforced. As long as impunity prevails over justice, this, tragically, may not be the last time,” stated the WGHR in a statement on Sunday. 


Criticism of the government’s human rights record very often centres on the imposition of AFSPA. The harsh emergency law was first imposed in Nagaland in 1958 and is currently in force in Jammu, Kashmir and several insurgency-ridden states in northeast India.


The repeal of AFSPA has been a long-standing demand of civilians, survivors, families of victims, human rights movements and activists around India.


AFSPA also attracts sharp criticism from UN human rights bodies. In 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that exercising power under AFSPA amounts to exercising emergency powers without resorting to the procedure laid down under section 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 


The Special Rapporteur on Summary, Arbitrary and Extrajudicial Execution, in his analysis of the situation after his official visit to India in 2012, stated that the powers conferred on the armed forces of the Union under AFSPA go beyond permissible limits. He said that the right to life, which appears to be suspended under AFSPA, is a non-derogable right even in situations of emergency. 


The Committee on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2007 described AFSPA as racist and had urged the Government of India to repeal it within a year. The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2014, also recommended the repeal of AFSPA, calling for sexual violence committed against women by armed forces to be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law. 


In the last three cycles of India’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), several governments recommended the repeal, review or revision of AFSPA. These recommendations also addressed the accountability of security personnel, the regulation concerning detentions as well as victims' right to appeal in accordance with international standards. The Government of India, however, has consistently not accepted, but only noted, these recommendations. 


Similar recommendations are likely to be repeated in the 4th UPR cycle, which will begin in October 2022. India will be one of the first countries to be reviewed. 


Domestically, the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee recommended repealing AFSPA in 2005, calling the act “a symbol of hate, oppression, and instrument of high-handedness.”


In the aftermath of this incident, several chief ministers from the North-East, including those of Nagaland, Meghalaya and now Manipur, have renewed calls to repeal AFSPA. The law was lifted from Meghalaya a few years ago and earlier from Tripura state. 


“The repeal of AFSPA will strengthen the spirit of the country’s constitutional democracy. India’s human rights record is to be reviewed before its peers at the UNHRC in October 2022. Repealing this act would be a positive development to report to the UN Human Rights Council at that time,” stated the WGHR.

1 comment:

  1. Is there an idea that the Assam Rifles unit was right in its actions that led to the deaths of the thirteen Naga's? I don't think any Indian supports the firing or the loss of lives. The ramifications of the incident is, that it seems there is no accountability for what happened. I think this is worse than punishing a few soldiers who pulled the trigger on the victims. Also, none of the authorities of the Assam Rifles have made any excuses towards the matter, nor of the govt. India cannot afford to have such incidents, which undermines the authority of the govt and the security forces, and works against any resolution with those who oppose them.


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