The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday said the decision of the army Court of Inquiry to close the case on the Pathribal killing of five civilians in Kashmir was a travesty of justice.
It may be recalled that the CBI had investigated the matter and charge-sheeted five army officers on the charges of abduction and murder, a statement issued by the Polit Bureau of the party said in New Delhi.
“Consequent to a Supreme Court decision, the case was taken up by an Army court resulting in this miscarriage of justice. Exoneration of the army officers is also a glaring instance of how the army operates with impunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,’’ the statement said.
Pointing out that the people of Kashmir will draw the obvious conclusion that they are subject to double standards as far as justice is concerned, the CPI (M) said the crime against innocent civilians in Pathribal should not go unpunished. Steps should be taken immediately to get the case reverted to the judicial system and a speedy trial be conducted.
Meanwhile, Christine Mehta, spokesperson, Amnesty International India said that Army’s recent statements declaring “zero tolerance for human rights violations” in Jammu & Kashmir ring hollow after its decision to close the Pathribal fake encounter case.
The CBI, which had initially investigated the killings of five Kashmiri civilians in Pathribal in 2002, had said that it had found sufficient evidence to show that the killings were extrajudicial executions and ‘cold-blooded murder’. In 2006, it charged five soldiers of the Indian army with offences including criminal conspiracy, murder and kidnapping.
In 2012, the Supreme Court gave the army the option to prosecute the five accused soldiers in a court-martial, and the army accepted.
“The Army’s decision to conduct its own investigation, which it now claims did not find sufficient evidence against the accused soldiers, is baffling. The Army’s closure of the case brazenly disregards the findings of the CBI and the rights of the families of the victims,’’ Ms Mehta said.
The government is obligated under national and international law to investigate human rights violations in a swift, independent and impartial manner. Authorities must take cognizance of the army’s failure to prosecute its personnel for serious human rights violations, Amnesty statement said.
“Authorities must ensure that those soldiers suspected of criminal responsibility, as established in a previous independent investigation conducted by the CBI, are promptly brought to trial. Delayed or incomplete investigations, or failure to try the accused in a fair, impartial and independent court, violates the rights of the victims’ families to justice, and contributes to the prevailing climate of impunity in J&K,’’ Ms Mehta added.