August 2001 News

Silence on J&K missing appalling: Amnesty

29 August 2001
The Asian Age
Nabanita Sircar

London: Marking the Day of the Disappeared 2001 (August 30) Amnesty International, which has been focusing on Jammu and Kashmir for a few years, has attacked the alleged failure of the Government of India to book those allegedly responsible for what it terms “disappearances” in Jammu and Kashmir.When asked if Amnesty International was in touch with either government authorities in India or the Indian high commission in London, before making the allegation, a spokeswoman for Amnesty’s India desk told The Asian Age, “Normally the government authorities are not willing to cooperate with us and give us figures. Unfortunately, the communications with the government about Jammu and Kashmir are quite limited so we use our own resources.” Giving an estimate of 1,100 disappearances since 1990 (while adding that the figures are not reliable), Amnesty International said, in a statement: “The Government of India should make all those responsible for ‘disappearances’ face justice for their crimes.” The organisation has described the “disappeared” as people who have been taken into custody, “yet whose whereabouts and fate are concealed and whose custody is denied.” “Disappearances” are used by security forces and police to combat insurgency. In India “disappearances” are most commonly seen in regions which have or have had strong secessionist movements.” “While recognising the responsibility of the state to combat armed insurgency, there is no legal or moral justification for the state to continue to cover up ‘disappearances’ and to deny justice to the thousands of victims and their relatives.” The spokeswoman also said that the figures of the number of “disappearances” are not accurate because exact details are not available “So we don’t want to give precise details.” It claims that no one directly or indirectly responsible for these alleged “disappearances” in the state has faced the judiciary. “In cases where an official investigation has taken place, the central authorities have failed to prosecute any member of the security forces and to date no family has received compensation for the disappearance of a loved one.” Reacting strongly to Amnesty International’s statement, a spokesman for the high commission of India in London told The Asian Age: “We are dismayed to note that Amnesty’s campaign on the Day of the Disappeared focuses largely on India. “Amnesty, once again, seems to find it unnecessary or irrelevant to recognise that the country that they are referring to is the world’s largest democracy, with an independent judiciary and a watchful media that is itself the first to highlight any violations of human rights. It also apparently finds it unnecessary to mention the activities of terrorist groups and the hostage taking and killing by terrorist groups that has contributed to many of the disappearances.” We hope that Amnesty will try to take a more balanced and objective view of India because one-sided statements of this nature would only serve to erode its own credibility.” When asked if Amnesty International was looking into ‘disappearances’ of people by terrorist groups, the spokeswoman said, “Human rights violations by opposition groups (term used by the organisation for militant groups) are more murders than disappearances. We are researching into that also.” Amnesty International has also accused the National Human Rights Commission in India for failing to take any action on the list of the “disappeared” in Jammu and Kashmir given to it by NGOs last year. It demands that the Government of India should acknowledge “the continuing frustration and helplessness felt by the families of the ‘disappeared’ and put an end to the impunity which denies them the right to come to terms with their bereavement,” and follow the example of Colombia and the Philippines and build memorials for those who have been “disappeared” or unlawfully killed.

 

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