TODAY -
Repeal law that gives the military license for violence
End Manipur Killings

Source: Hueiyen News Service

New York, July 17 2009: The Manipur state government in northeastern India should act to end a cycle of unpunished violence, including killings, by security forces and armed groups, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch said that urgent action is needed by the Indian government to support this process by repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which has facilitated serious security force abuse for many years.

A government-appointed review committee recommended the repeal in 2004, but the government has yet to act.

"The situation in Manipur is nothing less than a breakdown in the rule of law," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"Repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act would help to put an end to the abductions, torture, and killings, and help restore people's confidence in the government".

Local human rights groups have documented several killings in Manipur in recent months in which the killers are alleged to be members of the security forces.

The Special Powers Act gives members of the armed forces broad authority to search, arrest, and shoot-to-kill - and protects them from prosecution.

The culture of violence perpetuated by this law has become so deeply rooted that the police now routinely commit the same kinds of abuses long practiced by the army and state paramilitary forces.

In several cases, security forces allegedly robbed and killed people, but then claimed that the deaths resulted from "encounters" - shootouts with armed groups.

On the morning of June 20, 2009, for example, Waikom Kenedy and Thokchom Samarjit disappeared on their way to an educational institution in Imphal, Manipur's capital.

That afternoon, their families learned that both had been killed by Manipur police commandos.

The police admitted to the killings, but claimed they occurred during an armed encounter.

The relatives believe that the men were robbed of their cash and a heavy gold chain, and then killed.

"The security forces have a long history of faking 'encounters,'" said Ganguly.

"The central government should order an independent investigation into these killings".

In a September 2008 report, "These Fellows Must Be Eliminated," Human Rights Watch documented human rights abuses by all sides in Manipur, where close to 20,000 people have been killed since separatist rebels began their movement in the 1950s.The title of the report is a quote from the Manipur police chief, who told Human Rights Watch that many of the militants were not political fighters but petty extortionists or criminals who should be "eliminated." In this environment, members of the security forces apparently believe that it is acceptable to kill suspects instead of pursuing prosecutions through the legal system.

"Unexplained killings attributed to the security forces or armed groups have become common in an increasingly lawless Manipur state," said Ganguly.

"The state and central governments can restore some public confidence by getting serious about investigating and prosecuting these killings and ensuring that justice is done".

Nearly 30 armed groups are estimated to operate in Manipur.

Some have such a strong hold over Manipuri society that ordinary citizens have been forced to build alliances with them to ensure protection from others.

The government's failure to end the lawlessness has also encouraged corruption and common crime.

The armed groups routinely extract "taxes" from people, even including government officials, and carry out abductions for ransom.

"Five decades of rights violations by the government security forces don't justify the killings and extortion by armed groups in Manipur," said Ganguly.

"These groups share the blame for Manipur's lawlessness".


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