India: States should review AFSPA – NHRC

Shillong, May 31: India’s apex human rights panel Thursday said it has no jurisdiction to recommend to the state governments to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), but has asked them to consider review of the controversial legislation.
“The state governments have to take a decision to repeal the act as it is a policy decision. The NHRC has, therefore, never recommended for its repeal,” National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Justice (retd) KG Balakrishnan told journalists here Wednesday night.Balakrishnan, who attended the NHRC’s camp sittings in Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya, made it clear that the commission has never recommended repeal of the AFSPA. “The commission has asked the state governments to review the act as it cannot be viewed as a permanent feature. Now it is up to the wisdom of the state governments to do so,” he said.
Balakrishnan said the Commission has taken up complaints from Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir in cases relating to the AFSPA’s alleged abuses and most of them were settled.
“The home ministry has sent its reply on the cases and on several occasions the cases were settled,” he said.
Rights activists say AFSPA, which is enforced in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland and some other parts of the northeast like Meghalaya, gives the armed forces authority to kill or detain suspects in insurgency-prone areas.
However, army officials engaged in counter-insurgency operations maintain that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to repeal the act or let it continue.
Meghalaya Governor RS Mooshahary, who favored the repeal of the AFSPA in the region, had said that its prolonged use had alienated the civil society.
“We cannot contain insurgency-related violence by alienating the citizens; we can do so more effectively by involving them,” said Mooshahary, a former chief of the Border Security Force and the National Security Guard.
Irom Sharmila Chanu, a human rights activist, has been on indefinite strike for nearly a decade in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of the AFSPA from the state.
Several human rights groups, including the powerful North East Students’ Organization (NESO), have also been demanding revocation of the AFSPA from the northeastern region.
In view of the outcry against the AFSPA, the central government had appointed a five-member committee headed by Supreme Court Judge BP Jeevan Reddy a few years ago to examine whether the act was required or not.
After visiting all affected states, the committee submitted its report to the central government in October 2006. The government has not yet made public the committee’s findings.
Source: Greater Kashmir.com (http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/Jun/1/states-should-review-afspa-nhrc-59.asp) – 31/05/2012

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