Friday, July 24, 2015

Impunity and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act

If you were wondering about whether the world is shrinking, consider this editorial in The New York Times, concerning India's Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Excerpt:
The act, which can be activated by the federal government or the states, gives soldiers wide powers to kill, arrest, search and detain. It also grants them civil immunity from prosecution and punishment. India’s army, which is empowered to try soldiers in military courts for crimes against civilians, has rarely done so. The result is a shocking incidence of rapes, murders, torture, summary detention and disappearances of civilians in areas where the law applies. 
This month, Amnesty International published a damning report on abuses in Jammu and Kashmir, and called again for an end to the law. Indian legal authorities and human rights groups, as well as international groups and the United Nations, have urged repeal. In 2005, following the rape and murder of a woman in Manipur, a government-appointed committee said the law should be amended or replaced “in consonance with the obligations of the government towards protection of Human Rights.” In 2008, Human Rights Watch published a major report on Afspa calling for repeal. In 2012, the United Nations said the act “clearly violates international law.” The year after, a former chief justice of India, J.S. Verma, chairman of a committee charged with reviewing Indian law after the brutal rape of a student in New Delhi, said there was an “imminent need” to assess continued use of the law.
The Times recommends repealing the law, which has become increasingly out of step with contemporary human rights and due process standards.

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