India: UN experts call for urgent progress in investigation of hundreds of “fake encounter” killings

GENEVA – Two UN rights experts are urging the authorities in India to complete thorough investigations into alleged killings by security forces in the State of Manipur, after officials failed to meet a deadline set by the Supreme Court for inquiries into the cases.

 

“We are extremely concerned that the delay appears to be deliberate, undue and unreasonable, and we condemn this lack of progress,” the experts said.

 

In 2012, civil society groups submitted more than 1,500 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur to the Supreme Court of India. In many of the cases, the deaths had been registered by the police as due to exchange of fire between security forces and armed groups or individuals. However, the families alleged the cases were ‘fake encounters’ and the individuals had been intentionally killed.

 

In 2013, a Commission appointed by the Supreme Court examined six cases selected at random and found in all cases that the conclusions of the security forces were not genuine, and that none of the individuals killed had established criminal records.  The Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) was ordered to conduct investigations into a number of other cases.

 

“The Supreme Court has since set three deadlines for investigations into a number of cases to be completed, and three times these deadlines have not been met,” the experts said.

 

In 2016, the Supreme Court set a deadline of 31 December 2017 for investigations to be completed in 89 cases. But, by the deadline, only 12 cases had been registered. The court set another deadline of 28 February 2018 for these cases, but by 12 March only 42 cases had been registered. Finally, the Supreme Court ordered investigations be completed and a report be filed by 30 June 2018 for 50 cases. But in a hearing last Monday (2 July 2018), the CBI not only failed to submit the required report but also indicated it had completed investigations into only four cases.

 

“Some of these families have been waiting decades for these cases to be fully investigated. It is unacceptable that the CBI is failing to meet these deadlines and appears to lack good faith,” said the experts. 

 

They also expressed concern that the court orders applied only to a small number of cases, and it was unclear when investigations would be conducted into the remaining cases which run into the hundreds.

 

The government of India has an obligation to ensure prompt, effective and thorough investigations into all allegations of potentially unlawful killings, and a failure to do so is a violation of its international obligations. Justice delayed is justice denied,” the UN experts added.

 

They also expressed serious concerns about information that human rights defenders associated with the cases had faced harassment by the authorities and had even been attacked by unknown individuals. Mr. Sagolsem Menjor Singh, Ms Ranjeeta Sadokpam and Ms Salima Memcha, members of one of the civil society organisations involved in the case, have reportedly been harassed by the police. Shots were fired at the home of another supporter, Mr. Okram Nutankumar by unknown individuals.

 

The experts have written to the Government of India to express their concerns and request further information, but have yet to receive a response.

 

ENDS

 

*The UN experts: Ms Agnes CallamardSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Mr Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.