Kashmir: Families approach UN Special Procedure on the Sailan Massacre of August 1998

Hong Kong: 4 August 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the Sailan massacre in which local police and Indian army personnel stands accused of a massacre that – to date – has not been investigated fairly. The families of the victims today commemorated the massacre attended by different sections of civil society in Surankote, Poonch.

On the night of 3/4 August 1998, 19 [Muslim] civilians (13 female/6 male including 11 children) were shot to death at point blank range in their homes in Sailan village by 4 Special Police Officers (SPOs) and personnel of the 9 Para commando battalion (under the control of Major Gaurav Rishi), an elite commando unit of the Indian Army. Jammu and Kashmir police officers, including then Superintendent of Police (Poonch), J.P Singh, are also implicated in the crime and cover up. Following inaction by the police, the families approached the J&K High Court in 2011 and on 21 November 2012 the CBI was directed to re-investigate the case. On 27 August 2015 the CBI filed a closure report before the CBI court and on 25 August 2017, CBI court accepted the CBI investigations and closed the case. This decision was challenged before the J&K High Court and remains pending since 17 November 2017. Next date of hearing before the court is 9 August.

The families of the victim have submitted before the High Court that the CBI court ignored material evidence and its decision is arbitrary and findings perverse. The CBI court accepted the conclusions of the CBI and failed to appreciate the detailed submissions made by the family members of the victims that clearly indict the State forces for the crime and emphasise the need for further investigations that would lead to a chargesheet and a successful prosecution. Three eye-witnesses, all family members of the victims, accuse 4 SPO’s, and Major Gaurav Rishi, for their involvement in the massacre. Further, the CBI court was made aware of 12 witnesses who have vital evidence that support the case but the CBI court in its order does not even refer to this point.

Since 1998, the families of the victims have waged a struggle for justice before the J&K State Human Rights Commission, J&K High Court,CBI court and now back before the High Court. On 16 July 2018, the families submitted a detailed complaint on this case to the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions of the UN Human Rights Council. This forms another important step in the struggle for justice especially in light of the recent UN report on Jammu and Kashmir. (Issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission on behalf of the Spokesperson, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society)

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