Human Rights

Kashmiri human rights group asks both Army and militants to respect international humanitarian laws

Srinagar: Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights group here on Friday asked all parties involved in the armed conflict to abide by principles of the International Humanitarian Law during their combat operations.

The human rights group, in a press statement issued here on May 19, asked both India and Pakistan, who are signatories to Geneva Conventions and other international humanitarian instruments that regulate conduct of combat in all conflict situations, to abide by the same. United Jehad Council (UJC), the umbrella organization of the insurgent groups fighting in Jammu and Kashmir, besides having its own Code of Conduct has on various occasions assured people of the state that it believes in abiding by the four covenants of the Geneva Conventions, the statement said.

UJC, in October 2007, while signing the Unilateral Declaration on the Ban of use of landminesreiterated, its commitment to abide by all the four covenants of the Geneva Conventions, said JKCCS in its statement.“Despite all the public commitments by India and Kashmiri insurgent groups, the people of Jammu and Kashmir continue to witness loss of civilian lives, destruction of their properties and denial of their civil and political rights.”

Referring to media reports during the past few months about escalation in direct hostilities between state and non-state forces,the human rights group emphasized that it felt duty-bound to remind the state as well as non-state actors of their moral, legal and religious obligations towards the people.The JKCCS called upon all the combatants whether state or non-state and their political leadership to abide by the minimum and basic principles of the International Humanitarian Law and other universally accepted principles.

JKCCS stressed that during operations combatants must not target civilian objects, civilian people and those not directly participating in armed hostilities. Constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects and avoid civilian casualties; military installations must not be created in and around population centres, it stressed.Attacks against such military objectives which are expected to cause disproportionate civilian casualties and damage must not be launched and the wounded and sick during and after the combat operations must be collected and cared for and civilians must not be taken hostage for any reason or/and in any circumstances, it added.

“The dead must be respected and their bodies not mutilated. When mortal remains are unidentified, every effort must be made to preserve evidence that could lead to their eventual identification. Graves should be marked. Where the identity of a dead person is known (whether friend or enemy), next of the kin should be promptly informed. Family members of those involved in direct hostilities (insurgents, police and armed forces personnel) must be treated exactly like civilians and not arrested, abducted, threatened, assaulted or discriminated against. Ambulances, medical personnel and fire-fighting personnel who take no active part in hostilities must not be attacked, nor obstructed from performing their humanitarian duties,” it emphasized.

The statement further said that during operations when enemy fighters are taken prisoners, they must be treated humanely; they must not be tortured, killed or disappeared in custody. Besides, places of worship and those taking refuge in them must not be attacked in any circumstances; minorities, women, children, elderly and disabled should always be respected and no attempts should be made to infringe upon their rights, dignity and safety and vehicles and buildings bearing emblems of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent should be respected and these emblems must not be used to deceive the enemy during hostilities.

The JKCCS further said that there have been huge number of extrajudicial killings by security forces and an indiscriminate use of force against civilians during the past few months. “Also the Indian state has resorted to tactics of collective punishment on the civilian population for providing support to the armed insurgents. Cordon and search operations, widespread torture and beatings of the civilians, using civilians as human shields, preventing the ambulances from ferrying the injured to hospitals, ransacking and vandalization of civilian properties, attacks on college premises, banning of internet etc. are some of the allegations against police and security forces.”

On the other hand, armed insurgents have been accused of killing workers of political parties, attacks on banks, throwing of grenades and attacking security forces at public places, ransacking of the houses of police personnel and threatening their family members and killing of a soldier on leave after abduction, the statement added. It further said that there have been news reports about beheading of two Army personnel in Poonch district (in Jammu region of the state) by Pakistani army deployed along the Ceasefire Line and the killings of civilians due to border skirmishes between Indian and Pakistani army.

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