UN special rapporteur for repeal of AFSPA

NEW DELHI, Mar 30 : Justice delayed is Justice denied stated UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns at a media conference at the UN office in New Delhi today.

The UN representative who is on a visit to India on a fact finding mission to examine situation of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions in the country met several high ranking officials in Delhi and in the States of Gujarat, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir and Assam, NGOs and UN agencies.

In his preliminary comments over the first ever fact finding mission in the country by an independent expert commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN official told media persons that there are serious concerns.

In contrast to India as the largest democracy with numerous fundamental rights, constitutional obligations, that has also ratified several international laws, there has been numerous disproportionate use of force on demonstrators, practice of fake encounters, large number of custodial deaths, cases of extra judicial killings and unaccounted violence by the State forces as well as non State forces.

“Unlawful killing is a matter of serious concern” said the UN official.

While stating that AFSPA is controversial as the National Human Rights Commission favours scrapping of the Act while the Supreme Court is upholding it, the UN official joined in the call for repeal of the AFSPA.

He said “implementing AFSPA in Jammu & Kashmir and North East India over rides human rights in the so called disturbed area in an intrusive manner.”

According to Christof Heyns, the challenges in India are “Systematic challenges” wherein victims or the redresssal mechanismd are in the form of compensation instead of persecution.

Talking about his interactions with families of victims, the UN official said the life of the perpetrators moves up while the victim and families’ life goes from bad to worse.

People want to speak out and be heard, to give testimonies and names of their loved ones, the UN official noted on more emotional tone.

“People from Manipur came all the way for 18 hours by bus”, he said.

Speaking of systems and institutions. Christof emphasised the need for a pro-active National and State human rights commissions, which he said “Inspire little confidence” quoting the Manipur state commission which was closed after it challenged the abuse of power.

He underlined the need to strengthen and bring domestic laws in line with international laws.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s mission was to undertake an effort to prevent and ensure accountability regarding use of force by police and armed forces and its impact on people. The 13 provisional recommendations of the UN representative include need for commission of inquiry, ratification of international instruments, repeal of AFSPA and other laws that give impunity, disturbed areas act, unlawful prevention act etc. Beside legislations in place, the recommendation mentioned about review and monitoring of directives of SC and NHRC , provision for victims’ families, practise of inviting UN special procedures, especially in conflict areas.

He was of the opinion that human rights commission and human rights institutions in the country should be given more independence and mandate. Laying emphasis on the role and importance of NGOs, the UN rapporteur highly applauded the works of the NGOs / CSOs in India, which he said are ‘balances and nuance in their approach who can be part of problem solving” The official said that military and use of force only retaliates and is not a long term solution .

His visit to India on the invitation of the Government is a sign of openness and an indication that India is open to criticism, said the UN official.


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