Today, on the International Day of the Disappeared, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) seeks to draw attention to the continued practice of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions of Kashmiris with impunity in Jammu and Kashmir. Over the past three decades, more than 8,000 persons have been subjected to enforced or involuntary disappearances.
The practice of enforced disappearances in Kashmir, however, had seen a considerable decline during the last decade but since last year the practice seems to have resurfaced in Kashmir. Since last year, there has been a significant increase in the abduction of civilians who after forced disappearances are being killed extra-judicially; At least eight such incidents have been reported across Jammu and Kashmir since more than a year, while one among the eight victims still remains missing. Recently, a college student from Handwara area of north Kashmir was killed in a fake encounter subsequent to his disappearance and was branded as a foreign militant by the army. In another such incident from north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, a headless body of a 25-year-old youth was recovered from a river subsequent to his disappearance on 27th August 2017. APDP is gravely concerned about the spike in extra-judicial killings of people subsequent to their disappearance. The association strongly condemns such systematic acts of violence against civilians.
Today when the whole world commemorates the victims of enforced disappearances, APDP would like to bring the attention of the global community – not only on the issue of more than 8,000 cases of enforced disappearances in Kashmir – but also on the existence of 7,000+ unknown, unmarked and mass graves. The government continues to be reluctant in carrying out investigations into the enforced disappearances and the existence of unmarked and mass graves despite the recommendation from the international institutions like European Union [In 2008 EU passed a resolution against unmarked and mass graves in Kashmir] Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, etc as well as from the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), a government body, which recommended for a comprehensive forensic examination in 2011 into all the unmarked and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also worthwhile to note here that SHRC recently directed the state that mass graves being a sensitive issue, any Additional Advocate General from the state should appear to assist the commission.
It is pertinent to mention that from last two year the Spanish government has begun a process of exhuming and investigating mass graves in a search for disappeared victims of the country’s civil war [1936-1939] and Franco’s regime. The government of Spain has also enacted a law titled “Law of Historical Memory”. If the governments like Spain can take remedial measures and investigate mass graves why can’t government of India in order to ascertain the fate of more than 8000 disappeared persons initiate such a similar process of investigating unknown, unmarked and mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir.
Indian government claiming itself the largest democracy and striving for new India has failed in investigating human rights abuses, prosecuting perpetrators and providing truth, justice, and reparation to the victim human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. The recent shocking verdict of Armed Forces Tribunal on Machil fake encounter case has created fear and dismay among the family members of the disappeared. The tribunal has suspended the life sentence of the five perpetrators of Indian Army, who were convicted by army’s General Court Martial in 2014. The Machil fake encounter was a high profile case in which three youth subsequent their disappearance were killed by Army in a fake encounter in 2010 and were branded as foreign terrorists. The killings triggered mass agitation across Kashmir which led to the killing of around 125 civilians in government forces action. Machil was the rarest of rare cases of enforced disappearance or fake encounter in Kashmir wherein guilty armed forces were convicted under their own Court Martial. The dismissal of their sentence by the Tribunal perpetuates the existing culture of impunity for protecting the perpetrators of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Jammu and Kashmir. By doing so, the political and military leadership of India want to boost the morale of the army in Jammu and Kashmir and the verdict carries out the message that there exists no accountability for violating human rights.
This year in the month of May, the Indian human right record was under the spotlight of Universal Periodic Review [UPR] of the United Nations Human Right Council [UNHRC], many of the member states of UNHRC during the review recommended India for the ratification of International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, which India signed in 2007. In spite of repeated recommendations in all the 3 cycles of UPR India continues to be unwilling in legislating against the enforced disappearances and criminalizing the practice of disappearing civilians. The International community must urge and press upon the government of India for the Ratification of International Convention against Disappearances and criminalize the practice of enforced disappearances.
On the International Day of the Disappeared APDP once again calls on global civil society and the international human rights watchdogs that the phenomenon of enforced disappearance must end in Jammu and Kashmir and the perpetrators of disappearances must be brought to justice, so that there will be way forward for providing truth, justice, and reparation to the thousands of victimized families.