The Indian authorities should immediately order an independent, impartial investigation into the killings by security forces of three people in July 2020 in Jammu and Kashmir, Human Rights Watch said today.
The army claims that the three were militants and were killed in a retaliatory gunfight after they fired on the security forces during a search operation on July 18 in Shopian district, and were then buried in Baramulla district. But their families in Jammu, who identified them from photographs of the killings circulated on social media, said they were laborers who had gone in search of work. Following demands from political parties for an inquiry, on August 10, the army said it will investigate.
“Security forces have long operated with impunity in Kashmir, and past army investigations have been more focused on shielding those responsible for abuse than providing justice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “There can be no end to the cycle of violence in Kashmir if security forces are not held accountable for their past and current abuses.”
The families of those killed identified them and said they last had contact with them on July 17, after they reached Shopian to look for work. The families assumed they may have been quarantined when they could not get in touch after that. They identified their relatives from the photos uploaded on social media of those killed in the Shopian armed encounter and have since filed a missing person report at the police station. The police have said they are also investigating the killings.
Any army investigation into the recent killings will be meaningless, Human Rights Watch said, because the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives the security forces effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses. It grants the military wide powers to arrest, shoot to kill, and occupy or destroy property in counterinsurgency operations.
As per Human Rights Watch, more extrajudicial killings have been reported as recently as July in Indian-Occupied Kashmir.