‘Human rights crisis’ in J&K worsening, says Amnesty

Amnesty International on Monday hit out against the use of what it described as “arbitrary and excessive” force by the security forces in response to the protests in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a statement issued here, the global human rights NGO said the security forces’ actions were a violation of international standards and were leading to a worsening of “the human rights crisis” in the State.

The summer of unrest in Kashmir began after the death of Burhan Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, in an encounter in July. The protests that followed led to clashes. So far 78 people, including two security force personnel, have been killed.

“Some demonstrators have thrown stones and attacked police stations, government buildings and politicians’ homes. Security force personnel have fired live ammunition, tear gas and pellets from pump-action shotguns,” said the Amnesty statement.

Most recently, on September 10, a man in Anantnag district was killed after being hit by a pellet-firing shotgun, said the statement. The use of these shotguns has led to a debate about the use of lethal weapons to quell demonstrations. Though the Ministry of Home Affairs recently approved the use of chilli-based munitions as an alternative, pellet guns have already killed six people and blinded or injured scores.

According to Amnesty, the pellet guns were to be used in “rare” cases. But in the first week of September alone, there have been 100 reported cases of pellet injuries at Srinagar hospitals. “Pellet-firing shotguns have injured and blinded even peaceful protestors and bystanders,” said Aakar Patel, executive director at Amnesty International India.

‘Ban pellet guns’

Mr. Patel said children had been hit by pellets while sitting inside their homes. “These weapons are inherently indiscriminate and always carry the risk of causing serious injury to people who are not engaging in violence. There is simply no proper way to use these weapons and they should be prohibited,” he said.

Citing the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials that says law enforcement officials may use force “only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty,” Amnesty wanted action to be taken against those using excessive force.

According to the Amnesty, even the use of pelargonic acid vanillylamide (PAVA or chilli shells) as an alternative to pellets comes with its own set of concerns. The chilli shells are chemical irritant weapons that are meant to temporarily disable people by affecting eyes and the upper respiratory tract. Both pellet-firing shotguns and chilli shells have not been used against protesters in any other State in India, said Amnesty. “The continued abusive use of pellet-firing shotguns, along with the deployment of the PAVA shells, is extremely worrying,” said Mr. Patel.

He said chemical irritants could be potentially used in “an arbitrary or indiscriminate manner,” which was why there should be adequate training for security forces and thorough safety tests of the weapons.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 6:43:40 PM |

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