Match DNAs of unnamed dead with families of disappeared: People’s Tribunal

The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and the association of parents of disappeared persons (APDP) on Monday welcomed the State human rights commission (SHRC) investigation confirming the presence of unmarked graves in Kashmir and called three-tier process, Investigation, Prosecution, and Reparation in this regard.

We welcome the report of the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) on unmarked graves in north Kashmir, taking suo moto cognizance of the matter, and appreciate the courage and labour that this work signifies,” a joint statement issued by the two human right bodies during a sit-in demonstration at municipal park, Srinagar on Monday said.

The statement said that the SHRC’s investigation acknowledges and corroborates the research documented in the report, BURIED EVIDENCE, released by IPTK in December 2009.

“SHRC investigated unmarked graves in Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara, and Handwara districts across 38 graveyards and verified 2156 unidentified bodies in unidentified graves,” the statement said.

It said based on investigative research conducted between November 2006-November 2009, BURIED EVIDENCE had documented 2700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves, containing 2943+ bodies, across 55 villages (in 62 sites within these villages) in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir. Of these, 2373 were unidentified and unnamed graves.

“To respond to the egregious violations of the past and secure justice requires that we acknowledge atrocities that have been committed and address their effects. In the matter of unknown, unmarked, and unidentified graves in Kashmir, we call for a three-tier process: Investigation, Prosecution, and Reparation,” the statement said.

Urging SHRC to extent its investigations across all the 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir, the statement said that the DNA-based profiles of those buried in the unmarked and unidentified graves be cross-tabulated with those that have been involuntarily disappeared in Kashmir.

“Further, in addition to the identification of the dead, we ask that comprehensive forensic examinations be conducted to determine the circumstances of death, including incidences of torture,” it added.

The two rights bodies said that if, in the course of future investigations, it is proven that disappeared persons were killed in fake encounters and buried in unmarked graves, exemplary punishments should be pronounced against those accused to deter future and repeated crimes of the same nature.

“In instances where non-local persons are killed in alleged “encounter” killings, relevant international human rights and humanitarian law must be applied in matters of redress,” the joint statement said.

Demanding an independent and impartial investigation into the unmarked and mass graves, the statement said that the story of these graves be investigated in their entirety including the legal and institutional histories of the graveyards?

“How did they come into existence? Per whose order? Did District Magistrates requisition the construction of graveyards, burials, and record keeping? Such historiography would permit holding actionable particular officers and offices that acted in violation of the law, with arrogance and indifference, and failed to follow the law in burying unidentified bodies. This would disaggregate the amorphous state and enable holding accountable particular institutions of state,” the statement said.

Asking India to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the rights bodies said that the state government must institute a comprehensive ban on practises of torture as defined by international law and humanitarian ethics.

“We ask that all special laws and provisions of immunity that authorize the military and paramilitary forces to act with impunity in Kashmir be revoked unconditionally.” The statement added.