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UN report "regrets" extra-judicial killings in Gujarat, objects to reinstatement of responsible cops in higher positions

Ishrat Jehan
By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) report has taken strong exception to the Gujarat government failing to act against high level police officials  responsible for encounter killings of individuals in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots. The report, released recently, notes that “police officers who have been suspended upon their arrest in cases of suspected extrajudicial killings and charged with extrajudicial killings have been reinstated in senior positions.”
The United Nations Human Rights Commission’s (UNHRC’s) “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns”, says that it is concerned the step will “encourage impunity and may impede the criminal trials against the reinstated officers.” The report was released in May this year.
It points to how “police officials charged for the suspected unlawful killing of Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh, Amjadali Rana and Jishan Johar, as well as police officials charged for the suspected unlawful killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausarbi and Tulsiram Prajapati, were reinstated in the police service by the State of Gujarat in February 2015.”
The UN report further says, the Government of India was asked to “regularly review and monitor the status of implementation of the directives of the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission guidelines on arrest, encounter killings, and custodial violence and death.” But “so far no mechanism has been put in place to undertake the review and monitoring.”
The “encounter” killings took place against the backdrop of the communal riots which shook Gujarat in 2002. The cops made out that these were terrorists who had come to attack then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in order to “avenge” more than a thousand deaths, majority of whom were Muslims, during the riots.
The UN report also regrets that the Gujarat government has failed to make public the contents of the report the Nanavati-Mehta Commission, “established in 2002 and appointed to investigate the events that took place in Gujarat that year”, to look into the complaints of the riots.
This has happened even though the commission has “concluded its investigation after 12 years and more than 20 extensions later, and submitted its final report to the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2014”, the report notes.
The report simultaneously regrets, “in the context of investigating and addressing communal violence”, that the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill of 2011 “has not been passed.”
Praising the Bill, it says, it was “aimed at preventing communal violence and ensuring accountability for the failure to prevent such violence and protect life and property”, even as introducing “the principle of command and/or superior responsibility, and stipulated the rights of victims to reparations and remedies.”
Meanwhile, influential human rights organization Amnesty International has welcomed the UN report saying, India has not taken concrete steps to “address and prevent extrajudicial killings and ensure accountability”. It adds, guidelines provided by courts and the National Human Rights Commission, and recommendations by inquiry commissions, have remained on paper "with little or no implementation on the ground”.
Raghu Menon, Advocacy Coordinator at Amnesty International India, has said that the UN report is “another grim reminder that India needs to do a lot more to prevent extrajudicial executions, and end the impunity that continues to deny justice to victims… Authorities need to urgently implement the recommendations of this report.”
Other issues the UN talks about include failure to repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, saying that such legislation “remain a real impediment to proper accountability” in Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern states; and refusal to remove legal barriers for the prosecution of public servants, including the requirement for ‘prior sanction’ from the government, which is a major hurdle for victims in securing remedies for human rights violations”.

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