Srinagar: Reacting to reports of an appellate military court suspending the life sentences of five Army troopers, Asmita Basu, Programme Director at Amnesty International, India, said that the case highlighted the need for prosecution by independent civilian authorities.
“The developments in the Machil fake encounter case once again highlight the need for allegations of human rights violations to be investigated and prosecuted by independent civilian authorities, instead of the secretive military justice system,” Basu said in a statement.
“Civilian investigations and trials offer a degree of transparency and independence that is missing from the military justice system. The families of those killed in Machil were not informed about the conviction in 2010 and weren’t told about today’s decision to suspend the sentence,” she said.
Basu said that the working of the military justice system “repeatedly belies” the Indian Army’s zero-tolerance for human rights violations claim.
The statement said that several international bodies had emphasised that military justice systems should only investigate and prosecute members of the military for breaches of military discipline. “Their jurisdiction should not extend to other crimes, including crimes under international law or human rights violations,” it read.
The UN Human Rights Council, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has stated that in cases of human rights violations by armed forces, investigations should be carried out by civilian authorities in order to ensure independence, Amnesty International, India, said.
“This has also been affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. Military law experts in India have acknowledged inherent defects within the Indian military justice system, particularly its lack of independence,” said the statement.