Wednesday, August 27, 2014

US and India -- more transparency needed

On Yahoo! News, Amnesty International India's Christine Mehta has called attention to questions of transparency with respect to human rights cases involving U.S. and Indian military forces:
[I]n the case of both India and the US, the lack of media scrutiny of military operations has served to obscure the darker sides of conflict, including the serious abuses against civilians committed by soldiers and ignored by their superiors.
The US military has been engaged in counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan in a conflict that has captured world news headlines for 12 years. India is home to some of the world's longest running insurgencies, including the decades-old conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Some insurgencies in the northeastern states of India have been running for nearly 70 years.
Yet despite differences in context and geography, the Indian and US security establishments have one thing in common: They fail to consistently hold their security forces accountable for serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings, rape and torture. . . .
The Indian army routinely dismisses allegations of human rights violations, stating that they are "aimed at maligning the Army and embroiling it in legal tangles and provide ripe fodder for various human rights activists and separatist organizations to subvert the minds of the general population." On Human Rights Day last year, an army spokesperson said that less than 3 percent of over 1500 complaints of human rights violations by soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir received in the last two decades were "found to be true". But the army's unwillingness to share the details of its military justice proceedings is rarely questioned by most of the media.
Further, soldiers in areas where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in force, are virtually immune from prosecution in civilian courts, since these require permission from the central government which is virtually never granted. Yet the fact that authorities have not allowed the independent prosecution of several grave human rights violations is not extensively reported.
Like the US military in Afghanistan, the Indian army reveals little information about how it investigates allegations of human rights violations. The military justice system in India too is deeply flawed, and is not independent or transparent. The results of court-martial proceedings in India are almost never made public, not even to victims or their families.
Authorities in both India and the US need to acknowledge the crimes that their security forces have committed, and actively pursue justice for victims. Leaving a legacy of unaddressed abuses will only result in impunity, instability, and the alienation of the people that these armies are charged with protecting.

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