Tuesday, December 01, 2009


North-East, India

The Government of India has been actively considering amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In this regard, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Amendment Bill 2009 has been listed for discussion during the ongoing winter session of the Parliament. Pertinently the proposed amendments have not been placed in the public domain for a discussion on the same. The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR) would like to urge that AFSPA should be repealed in totality and no part of it should be inserted in any other legislation of the country.

The AFSPA grants special powers to the armed forces of the union to operate in the States of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh since 1958, and in Jammu Kashmir since 1990. Once an area is declared 'disturbed' under this Act, the armed forces of the union can arrest and detain citizens without warrant, search and destroy properties without warrant, and even use force to the extent of killing citizens on mere suspicion.

Civil society groups in these regions as well as human rights groups outside the regions have documented gross violations of human rights under this Act and have been demanding its repeal. Ms. Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri poet, has created history as she enters the tenth year of her indefinite hunger strike against the Act, despite several attempts by the state to forcibly feed her. She has been uncompromisingly demanding the repeal of this draconian law.

In 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee stated that in imposing AFSPA the Government of India is in fact using emergency powers without resorting to the procedures laid down in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. Other UN committees including the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Committee for the Rights of the Child, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, have raised concerns against the Act. In 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination categorically urged the Government of India to repeal the Act within one year. The High Commissioner for Human Rights also urged the Government of India to repeal this Act during her recent visit to India. (March 2009).

The Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee appointed by the government to review the law, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by present law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily and the Working Groups on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir led by the present Vice President, Hamid Ansarai, have all recommended repeal of the AFSPA.

The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR) – a platform of human rights organizations in India – would like to take this opportunity to apprise the honourable Members of Parliament on how AFSPA has become a symbol of abuse, oppression and impunity and inflamed passions for militancy in various parts of the country. WGHR sincerely hopes that the briefing will assist the honourable members to ensure that the quality of debate in Parliament will be enhanced, thus deepening democracy in the country and leading to a serious discussion regarding the widespread demand to repeal this draconian law.


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