The last week of May every year is recognized internationally as the International Week of the Disappeared and is an opportunity to remember the missing, and acknowledge the struggle of their families.
On Thursday, India’s human rights record will be reviewed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) under the “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) system. Since 2006, India has been reviewed twice in 2008 and 2012.
In 2016, 383 people were killed (including 145 civilians). A majority of the killings of civilians took place between July and December 2016. This year alone so far 98 people have been killed (including 35 civilians).
The recent violence mirrors the overall situation over the last two decades in the region with approximately over 70,000 people being killed, with more than 8000 being missing. Despite domestic law warranting investigations, and on occasion courts directing the State to act against forces accused of violations, the perpetrators continue to enjoy protection.
In the past two UPR sessions, recommendations had been made to ratify the Convention against torture, cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment and the international convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances. India has merely ‘noted’ these recommendations.
The reports regarding the past conduct of India, shows a large number of enforced disappearances in Kashmir and Punjab.
In the National Report, it is stated that India is “concerned” with enforced disappearances and is “cooperating” with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances”.
In reality, not a single disappeared persons has been found or re-surfaced and successive governments have either flatly refused that enforced disappearances exist in Kashmir. Not a single security force personnel has been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for the crime of enforced disappearance. The connected issue of unmarked mass graves, which are over 7000, were recognized by the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in 2011, but has also not been addressed by the government.
The government has refused to carry out any investigations into the graves citing, amongst other points, its inability to do so.
APDP submitted a report in September 2016 with 17 recommendations for the UPR. Key recommendations include that a United Nations fact-finding mission or Commission of Inquiry be constituted and allowed access to Kashmir.