In a damning report, Amnesty International has said that no member of the security forces in Kashmir has ever been tried for human rights abuse in a civilian court since 1990, when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) came into force in the conflict-ravaged region.
Section 7 of this draconian law shields military personnel from prosecution without the permission of the central government.
"Protection of persons acting in good faith under this Act: No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act."
The release of this report by the human rights group on Wednesday marks the passing of 25 years since AFSPA came into force on July 5.
"Till now, not a single member of the security forces deployed in the state has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court," said Minar Pimple, senior director for global operations at Amnesty International. "This lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses.”
The report, which is based on interviews with 58 family members of alleged victims of human right violations, said the central government has denied permission to prosecute under section 7 of the AFSPA in every case brought against army or military personnel.
“Not a single family interviewed for the report had been informed by the authorities of the status or outcome of a sanction request in relation to their case,” said Divya Iyer, research manager at Amnesty International India.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir, which is divided between the rival neighbours, but both sides lay claim to the Valley in its entirety. It is estimated that around 300,000 Indian troops are stationed in Jammu and Kashmir, one of the most heavily militarised regions in the world, where India has fought against a Pakistan-backed militancy since the eighties.
The militancy, which peaked in the nineties, has claimed thousands of lives, many of them civilians, who have been caught in the crossfire between the Indian troops and the insurgents.
On Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said AFSPA would be withdrawn when the situation is conducive, PTI reported.
AFSPA will be revoked from Jammu and Kashmir when the� situation is conducive: Rajnath Singh.— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) July 2, 2015
In its study, Amnesty International found that the army had dismissed more than 96 percent of all allegations of human rights violations as “false” or “baseless," but the reasons for doing so were not made public, and most internal investigations as well as military trials are carried out in secrecy.
“By not addressing human rights violations committed by security force personnel in the name of national security, India has not only failed to uphold its international obligations, but has also failed its own Constitution,” said Pimple.
Last year, a military tribunal sentenced five army men to life in jail for killing three young men in Jammu and Kashmir's Machil in 2010, falsely claiming they were militants.
In its report, Amnesty International welcomed this decision, but said that cases of human rights violations should be tried in civilian courts for "justice to be consistently delivered."