UN special rapporteur urges India to repeal AFSPA

Amid clamour for withdrawal of AFSPA from Kashmir, a UN Special Rapporteur on Friday urged India to repeal the controversial law.

New Delhi: Amid clamour for withdrawal of AFSPA from Kashmir, a UN Special Rapporteur on Friday urged India
to repeal the controversial law that gives its military
special powers to act in troubled areas.

Christof Heyns, UN`s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions, told reporters here that the
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has become a "symbol of
excessive state power" and "has no role to play in a

His comments came after the conclusion of his 12-day
fact-finding mission to examine situations of extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions in India.

"During my visit to Kashmir, AFSPA was described to me as
`hated` and `draconian`. It clearly violates International
Law. A number of UN treaty bodies have pronounced it to be in
violation of International Law as well," said Heyns.

Accountability is circumvented by invoking AFSPA`s
requirement of obtaining prior sanction from the Central
government before any civil prosecutions can be initiated
against armed forces personnel, he said, quoting the report.

"Information received through RTI applications show that
this immunity provision effectively blocks any prosecution of
members of the armed forces," he added, recommending immediate
repeal of the law.

As part of his fact-finding mission Heyns visited
Gujarat, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and West Bengal and
met secretaries of various ministries, police officers, human
rights activists and other officials in these states.

The UN Special Rapporteur`s final conclusions and
recommendations will be submitted as a comprehensive report to
the Human Rights Council at a future session in 2013.

"The main finding in my report is that despite
constitutional guarantees and a robust human rights
jurisprudence, extrajudicial killings continue in India and it
is a matter of serious concern," Heyns said.

Salutary guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, many
of which have been incorporated through amendments in the Code
of Criminal procedure are not sufficiently complied with, he

Prevalence of communal violence, encounter killings,
custodial deaths, `honour` killings and plight of dalits and
adivasis are other areas of concern mentioned in the report.

In the report, Heyns proposed a number of provisional
steps to be taken to address these concerns, including the
establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, consisting of
respected lawyers and other community leaders.

"India also should ratify a number of international
treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and the
International Convention for the Protection of All persons
from Enforced Disappearance," he said.

Heyns` visit is the first mission to India by an expert
mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report
on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.


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