ICJ joins call for AFSPA repeal from State

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IMPHAL, November 6: On the 15th anniversary of Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an organization of the jurist across the world based in Geneva has called on the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act without further delay.

“The AFSPA has facilitated gross human rights violations by the armed forces in the areas in which it is operational. It is a repressive and draconian law that should have no place in today’s India,” Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific Director of the ICJ said in a press release.

“The AFSPA has created a culture of impunity, shielding security forces from accountability in India for crimes under international law, and making it impossible for victims of human rights violations to access justice”, Sam Zarifi said.

The Indian government has often justified the need for the AFSPA as necessary to address terrorism and militancy in “disturbed areas”. “International law requires and experience shows that effective counter- terrorism measures must reinforce human rights, and not undermine and violate them,” said Sam Zarifi.

Several UN human rights bodies have recommended that the AFSPA be repealed or significantly amended. These include the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2014), the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (2014), the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (in 2013 and again in 2015), the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (2012), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2007), and the UN Human Rights Committee (1997), the release said.

In recent years, prominent Indian bodies have recognized the brutality of the AFSPA and echoed demands for repeal or amendment. The Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee set up by the Government of India to review the working of the AFSPA, has advocated its repeal. The Fifth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission seconded this recommendation, it said.

The release mentioned that in 2012, the Extra Judicial Execution Victims Family Association, Manipur (EEVFAM) filed a petition at the Supreme Court of India, alleging that between 1979 and 2012, 1528 people were extra-judicially executed by security forces in Manipur.

A court-appointed fact-finding commission – popularly known as the Santosh Hegde Commission – studied 6 of these cases, and found that the deaths were not lawful.

In its report, the Hegde Commission agreed with the observation of the Jeevan Reddy Commission, that the AFSPA had become “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate, and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.”

The case is still pending in the Supreme Court, added the release.

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