Wednesday, September 19, 2018 | 11:04 AM

Amnesty demands ban on pellet guns in Kashmir, trial of forces in civilian courts

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Stating that the Indian government has reserved pellet guns only for Kashmiris, the Amnesty International has demanded a complete ban on its use in the valley.

It also sought an impartial probe against forces involved in excessive forces in the valley and be trailed in civil courts.

The Amnesty International India on Wednesday released its report titled: “Losing sight in Kashmir. The impact of pellet firing shotguns” at a local hotel in Srinagar. 

The report documented the cases of 88 pellet victims whose eye was damaged by metal pellets fired by the police and Centre Reserve Police Force personnel between 2014 and 2017.

“The government should initiate prompt, independent and impartial civilian investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used. Where there is sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts,” Shailesh Rai, Director Law and Policy, AI India said, at the function during the releasing of the report.

He said that AI India has demanded immediate ban on the use of pellet guns in Kashmir since it violates the international standards on the forces.

He said that the pellet shotguns and the manner in which they have been used in Kashmir violate international standards on the use of force, which state that law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“The US basic principles on the use of force and firearms states that force should be only used when lives at risk. Law enforcement officials should exercise restraint in using forces and minimize damage and injury,” he said.

He said this has been recognized by the International Court and international human rights organizations.

Rai said that security forces should tackle the protests by other means instead using the pellet guns.

He said that the AI India has recommended that government should provide relative training to forces. The AI India has sought compensation and rehabilitation to pellet victims.

Aakar Patel, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said, “Authorities claim that pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is.”

He said that the AI India has raised the issue with the government but there has been no response.

“Kashmir issue is difficult to work with the government. The government does not want to get engaged on human rights violations. There has been no justice to Kashmiris since 1987. There need a new narrative in New Delhi over Kashmir,” Patel said.

He said that government’s claim about protecting human rights in Kashmir was missing on the ground. “This is why the pellets are being used only in Kashmir. This weapon has been reserved for Kashmiris and was meant to kill birds.”

He said that the state police has filed FIRs and charge sheets against many security personnel over the years. “But there has been no response from New Delhi. The government has been shielding the perpetrators and Court Martial is also flawed.”

“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” Patel said. “Forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protestors by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused.”

Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India Zahoor Wani said that they documented the cases of 88 pellet victims of 2014-2017 in the age group of 9 and 65 years in the report.

“Thirty one had hit pellets in both their eyes. Two have lost both their eyes,” he said. “Only one family has been able to file the FIR against the forces. But they too are not aware about the status of the case,” he said.

He said that in some cases, those injured by pellet-firing shotguns still have the metal pellets lodged in their skulls, near their eyes.

Zahoor said that they have also obtained information through Right to Information applications suggesting that the use of the “inherently inaccurate” pellet-firing shotguns by forces has injured other forces personnel. “At least 16 personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were treated for pellet injuries in Kupwara in 2016.”

Amnesty International India has also written to JKP and CRPF for further information, but have not received responses, he added.

Ashmita Basu Pogramme Director AI India moderated the session.