Probe use of lethal force and ensure protection of human rights in Kashmir: Human Rights Watch

By TCN News,

New York: India should conduct an impartial probe into the use of lethal force by police during the violent protests following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani in Kashmir and ensure that basic human rights are protected, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a statement released on Tuesday.

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Burhan Wani, 22 and two other Hizb-ul-Mujahedin militants were killed in an armed exchange with government forces on July 8, 2016. Wani had a large following among Muslim Kashmiris who shared his demands for secession and an end to abuses by government security forces. After his death, thousands attended his funeral and protesters hurled rocks. State security forces have responded by firing pellet guns, teargas, and live ammunition resulting into the ongoing violence that has claimed 35 lives of civilians so far.

“Rock-throwing at demonstrations is serious but does not provide police a free pass to use force against protesters,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Indian authorities need to send a clear message that lethal force is only an option when a life is at imminent risk, and those misusing force will be held accountable.”

While law enforcement officials have a duty to protect lives and property, they should use nonviolent means as far as possible, only use force when unavoidable and in a proportionate manner, and use lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save lives, Human Rights Watch said.

There are reports that nearly 100 eye surgeries have been performed on people with pellet gun injuries. Indian security forces have been using pellet guns as a nonlethal option for crowd control after nearly 120 people were killed during weeks of protests in 2010. The use of pellet guns since 2010 has reportedly resulted in at least 300 hospitalizations in Srinagar, including 16 cases in which the patient lost their sight completely.

The Indian government should publicly order the security forces to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, HRW said.
The Basic Principles state that security forces shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,” and that “whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life.” Furthermore, “intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

The Basic Principles further provide that, “[i]n cases of death and serious injury or other grave consequences, a detailed report shall be sent promptly to the competent authorities.” The authorities should not only investigate the use of firearms that resulted in death and injury, but also the use of pellet guns, which can cause serious injury when fired at close range or at an individual’s eyes.

The findings of the investigation should be public and result in appropriate disciplinary action or prosecution.

“A major grievance of those protesting in Kashmir is the failure of authorities to respect basic human rights,” Ganguly said adding,“Ensuring that rights are protected and prosecuting those responsible for abuses would be an important first step.”