UN asks India to repeal AFSPA
New Delhi: Strongly backing the Indian government’s stand on Maoist violence, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, has condemned the violence perpetrated by the rebels in India.
After a rigorous 12-day fact-finding visit, Heyns, who will submit a report of his findings to the UN Human Rights Council next year, criticised the Maoists for killing innocent civilians with brazen impunity.
"Deadly violence has been used by Maoists, insurgents and terrorists in India. The callous nature in which lives, often of innocent civilians, are taken by these non-state actors, need to be condemned strongly. The state has a right to defend itself against such aggression, provided, of course, it abides by the international standards in this regard. The state cannot adopt unlawful or unconstitutional means or create a vigilante force to counter such violence," Heyns told media here.
Heyns also urged India to scrap the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives security personnel sweeping powers to search, arrest or even shoot people.
"AFSPA -- continuously in force since 1958, different states have their own versions as well, as in these particular states that I have mentioned, the Northeast India and Jammu and Kashmir -- has become a symbol of excessive state power. I have heard extensive evidence of action taken under this law that resulted in innocent lives being lost, in Jammu and Kashmir and in Assam, where witnesses from neighbouring states also assembled. This law was described to be as hated by some of the people I spoke to, and a member of a state human rights commission called it draconian," Heyns said.
"A law such as AFSPA, in my view, has no role to play in a democracy and should be scrapped. The repeal of this law will not only bring domestic law more in line with international; standards, but also send out a powerful message that instead of a military approach, the government is committed to respect for the right to life of all people in the country under a ordinary law and order and human rights dispensation," Heyns added.
The anti-militancy law is presently enforced in Jammu and Kashmir and across northeastern India. Several human rights groups, activists and academics regard AFSPA as a draconian law which is not needed now as the scale of militancy has been reduced considerably in the recent past and the Army does not need those powers, which could be misused by it.
On the other hand, the Army authorities deny such charges, and say the legislation is essential to root out insurgents.
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