Sep 16: SHRC orders probe into more unmarked graves in Kashmir

September 16, 2011

Widening its investigation to more than 3,800 unmarked graves in Poonch and Rajouri districts, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Friday directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to constitute an “independent, duly representative, credible, structured and fully empowered” body to “investigate and identify the people buried in unmarked graves and to prosecute the perpetrators”.

The SHRC ordered the inquiry after Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the International People Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) submitted a rejoinder, listing at least 2,717 graves in 90 graveyards in Poonch and 1,127 graves in 118 cemeteries in Rajouri.

APDP and IPTK had first published these findings in 2008 in a report titles ‘Facts Underground’.

“We have taken cognizance (of the APDP report about unmarked graves in Poonch and Rajouri), and registered a case,” said SHRC Secretary Tariq Banday. “We have issued notices to the government and asked them to produce the factual reports pertaining to it”.

As first reported by The Indian Express, the SHRC had earlier found atleast 2,156 unmarked graves in Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipore districts in north Kashmir.

At the hearing of the case regarding the graves in north Kashmir Friday, the state counsel Riyaz Ahmad sought two weeks to file objections to the SHRC report on these unmarked graves.

A SHRC bench, comprising its chairman Justice (Retd) Syed Bashir-ud-din and Justice (Retd) Javed Ahmad Kawoosa,however, turned down his request and ordered the state government to set up of an “independent, credible and representative” body that also has the power to prosecute the guilty.

While Banday said the definition of an “independent, credible body” was “wide open”, Coordinator, IPTK, Khurram Parvez, said, “For us, an independent, impartial and credible body is an international organisation… How could those who have been responsible for the breach and those themselves involved in the crime investigate the matter?”

The SHRC recommended identification of all the bodies in the unmarked graves with the help of DNA profiling and modern-day scientific techniques and methods. “In those case, where police has maintained identification profile of the buried dead bodies in the unmarked graves, be of militants or civilians, then identification over again as referred need not be gone through,” it added.

The SHRC bench also recommended “compensatory justice” to the families of disappeared persons.