HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Behind the Kashmir Conflict: Abuses by Indian Security Forces and Militant Groups Continue



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Human Rights Watch makes the following recommendations for action to be taken by the government of India, the militant forces in Kashmir, the government of Pakistan, and the international community to address the human rights crisis in Kashmir.

To the Government of India

The government of India should immediately initiate an impartial investigation into reports that the Eighth Rashtriya Rifles Battalion in Doda has been responsible for summary executions, "disappearances," rape, and other assaults on villagers. Other army units and security personnel named in other incidents of abuse should also be investigated and members found responsible for abuse prosecuted and punished.

The State Human Rights Commission should immediately establish branch offices in Doda, Rajouri and Punch to initiate inquiries into allegations of abuse, and provide support to local human rights organizations operating there. The commission should be empowered to investigate even those cases under review by the court.

Village defense committees (VDCs) should not be recruited along communal lines; existing VDCs that are communally based should be disbanded. All such groups should immediately be disarmed unless they are brought within the chain of command of the regular military. Members of VDCs responsible for extrajudicial killings, assaults, and other abuses should be prosecuted. Members of the security forces who have recruited VDC members for forced labor should be prosecuted.

Major Avtar Singh of the 35th Rashtriya Rifles should be apprehended immediately and prosecuted for the March 1996 murder of human rights lawyer and JKLF member Jalil Andrabi.

The Indian government should invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance to Kashmir and, in particular, to the Doda region to look into reports that abuses by militant groups and by the Indian army and village defense committees are contributing to a rise in communal tension. It should also permit the relevant United Nations special rapporteurs and working groups to conduct investigations.

The government of India should ensure that all reports of extrajudicial executions, "disappearances," deaths in custody, torture, and rape by security forces and unofficial paramilitary forces in Kashmir are investigated promptly by a judicial authority empowered to subpoena security force officers and official registers and other documents. Security personnel, including police, army, and paramilitary, responsible for these abuses should be prosecuted in civilian courts. Only with such trials and appropriate punishments will these forces receive the clear, unequivocal message that human rights violations are not condoned by their superiors. Those found guilty of abuse should be punished regardless of rank. The punishments should be at least as severe as those specified under civilian law. The results of these investigations and the punishments should be made public as a means of giving the people of Kashmir a reason to believe in the government's commitment to justice and the rule of law. Orders should be given immediately that police are to register all reports of abuse; anyone in the security forces found to have issued contrary instructions and any member of the police who has refused to register cases should be disciplined to the full extent of the law.

The government of India should disarm and disband all state-sponsored militias not established and regulated by law and prosecute members of such groups who have been responsible for extrajudicial killings, "disappearances," assaults, and other abuses. The government of India should establish a civilian review board to oversee any rehabilitation program for surrendered militants. This review board should have access to records on surrendered weapons and should review vocational training programs to ensure that the former militants are not compelled to serve in state paramilitary forces not established and regulated by law, or induced to take part in security operations that violate international human rights and humanitarian law.

Although the government of India has promised since 1993 to establish a centralized register of detainees accessible to lawyers and family members, this has never happened. In addition, security personnel continue to defy court orders to produce detainees in court. Both of these factors have increased the likelihood of "disappearances." The government of India should take stern and swift action against all officers who have obstructed or ignored judicial orders to produce detainees. All places of detention should be made known to the court and be subject to regular inspection by a magistrate. In addition, the security agencies should require that arresting officers provide signed receipts for all detainees to family members, village elders, or persons of similar status. The receipt would be retrieved when the person is released.

In previous reports, Human Rights Watch has urged the government of India to provide police training, perhaps after consultation with international experts, on gathering adequate evidence for rape prosecutions. Explicit prohibitions against rape should be included in training for all enlisted men and officers in the police, paramilitary forces, and military as a way of sending a clear signal that rape is not tolerated by the state. Medical workers who have examined and treated rape victims should be protected from abuse. Medical facilities, including private licensed physicians, should be encouraged to give testimony and introduce physical evidence in court with regard to rape and other forms of sexual and physical abuse.

State authorities and the headquarters of the army and paramilitary operations in Kashmir should issue public statements affirming the security of human rights defenders. The statements should include explicit guarantees for the security of human rights monitors to investigate incidents of abuse, record the statements of witnesses, publicize their reports, and petition the courts.

To the Militant Organizations

Militant groups should immediately stop all attacks on civilians, including kidnappings and assassinations. Militant groups should abide by human rights norms and the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibit hostage-taking, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and executions.

Militant groups should desist from using anti-personnel landmines.

To the Government of Pakistan

The government of Pakistan should end all support for abusive militant organizations in Kashmir. It should not provide indiscriminate weapons, such as landmines, to such groups.

To the United Nations

The General Assembly should condemn abuses by both Indian security forces and militants in Kashmir and urge India to permit relevant U.N. working groups and special rapporteurs to visit Kashmir.

The High Commissioner on Human Rights should visit Kashmir and conduct an investigation into abuses by all parties to the conflict. Her findings and recommendations should be reported to the Security Council and the General Assembly and should be made publicly available.

To the International Community

France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., the U.S., and India's other trading partners should suspend all military aid and sales and all programs of military cooperation with India, including joint exercises, until India provides greater accountability on cases of "disappearances," torture, and summary killings by its forces in Kashmir and disarms all state-sponsored paramilitary groups operating in Kashmir.

At the annual World Bank-sponsored donors meeting on India, participant countries should publicly state that continued economic support for India should not been seen as support for the Indian government's human rights policies. In the statement, and in private and public meetings with Indian government officials, members of the donor group should raise concerns about deteriorating conditions in Doda and other border districts and press India to allow greater access to these areas and other parts of Kashmir to international organizations. They should press India to invite the U.N. special rapporteurs and the working groups to visit Kashmir. They should also raise concerns about attacks on human rights defenders in Kashmir.

The diplomatic staff of India's allies and trading partners should make a point of visiting areas of the state outside the Kashmir valley, particularly Doda, Rajouri and Punch, and ensure that their reports reflect current human rights conditions in these areas.

The international community should condemn Pakistan's support for abusive militant groups operating in Kashmir and make any future arms sales or military cooperation agreements contingent on an end to Pakistan's support for abusive militant groups.



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