Cooperate with police, allow civil trial, Amnesty tells army

Srinagar: Amnesty International on Wednesday asked army to cooperate with police investigation into the killing of two teenagers in Budgam district and let its suspected soldiers face civil trial.
On Monday, army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles shot dead Burhan Yusuf Bhat, 13, alias Faisal, and Meraj-ud-Din Dar, 18, and wounded two of their friends Shakir Ahmad Bhat, 17, and Zahid Abdul Naqash, 15, at Chattergam in the central Kashmir district.
“The army must cooperate fully with state police investigations into the shooting and killings of Faisal Yusuf Bhat and Meraj-ud-Din Dar, and injury of two others in Budgam,” said Himanshi Matta, Media Officer of Amnesty International India, in a statement here.
“If sufficient evidence is found, suspects must be prosecuted in a civilian court, and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) must not be used to shield soldiers from prosecution.”
The army has announced that it has established a Court of Inquiry into the incident and that those found guilty will be “dealt with severely”.
The Amnesty, Matta said, has documented cases since 1990, including the killing of an 18 year-old boy in Ganderbal district in 2013, in which the army has refused to cooperate with police investigations, and failed to hold its personnel accountable for human rights violations based on the findings of Courts of Inquiry.
“Courts of Inquiry are known to sometimes be based solely on testimony from army personnel and contradict the findings of independent police investigations, and have contributed in the past to impunity for security forces in J&K,” Matta said.
He said the Amnesty International urges the Indian government to ensure that the police investigation into this incident is taken to its logical end, and that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials meeting international standards in civilian courts.
“Amnesty International India also urges authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to respect and protect the right to life in accordance with the Constitution of India and international law.
“Standard procedures on the use of firearms should be developed which are aligned with international standards. Firearms should only be used as a last resort, and the intentional lethal use of firearms must only be employed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life,” Matta said.