Abolish Draconian AFSPA

Christof Heyns, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, also advised India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law that grants security forces, battling militancy in Kashmir, unbridled authority to search, arrest or shoot people on suspicion. The law has for years been slammed by human rights groups as a draconian Act that is allegedly used by the military arbitrarily to violate civilians’ rights, a charge that authorities and the army deny, claiming that it is essential to combat insurgents.

At the end of his 12-day visit to India, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur urged New Delhi to revoke the law, saying it was “a symbol of excessive state power” that “clearly violates international law... “This law has been described to me as ‘hated,’ and a member of a state human rights commission has called it draconian,” said Heyns, who travelled through Kashmir and the states of Gujarat, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal for two weeks.

“A law such as AFSPA has no role to play in a democracy and should be scrapped,” Heyns, who will submit a report of his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council next year, he told reporters at the press conference on 30 March.

The delegate said that he had heard a number of families of victims who had purportedly been killed in arbitrary executions carried out by security forces, emboldened by the law that gives legal immunity to the officials.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2012 on page no. 11

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