Renewing calls for scrapping the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives immunity to the military from prosecution for actions in disturbed areas, human rights activists have said that upholding the rights and interests of victims is difficult in places where such "archaic" laws are in force.
"In an environment of impunity and intimidation fostered by archaic laws such as AFSPA, truth-seeking and truth-telling is very difficult as is upholding the rights and the interests of the victims," said Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), a non-governmental organisation headquartered in New Delhi.
"These laws defy logic and need to go," said Hazarika, author of "Strangers Of The Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India's Northeast".
Hazarika was speaking at a consultation on "Potential Transitional Justice Framework for Manipur" organised by the Centre for Human Rights Studies (CHRS) and the Centre for the Study of Knowledge Systems of Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) on December 1 here.
The consultation analysed the applicability of a suitable transitional justice model with a strong focus on effective transition from conflict to peace and reconciliation in the state of Manipur.
Transitional justice consists of both judicial and non-judicial processes and mechanisms, including prosecution initiatives, truth-seeking, reparations programmes, institutional reform or an appropriate combination thereof, according to the United Nations.
Panellists deliberated on factors which lead to the erosion of accountability in relation to human rights violations perpetrated by the security forces and insurgent groups in the region.
At the centre of the discussion was an investigation into as many as 1,528 alleged cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur.
The Supreme Court last year set up a Special Investigation Team comprising CBI officers and ordered registration of FIRs and investigation into the alleged extra-judicial killings in the northeastern state.
The court had ordered the registration of FIRs in 81 cases, including 32 probed by a Commission of Inquiry, 32 investigated by judicial authorities, 11 in which compensation was awarded and six probed by a Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde.
The investigation followed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed jointly by Imphal-based Extra Judicial Execution Victims' Families Manipur (EEVFAM) and Human Rights Alert.
Among those present at the consultation was Babloo Loitongbam, Director, Human Rights Alert, Manipur.
"We have organised the victims together and have filed 1,528 cases in the Supreme Court which is a class in itself. We started this journey six years back in 2012 by filing a PIL in Supreme Court and till now we have not seen any clear indication that justice will be done for sure," Loitongbam said.
"We are making good progress but still seem to be as far from justice as we were when we started in 2012. It is time for us to look at the whole phenomena of this impunity, promoted by AFSPA, and its effects over a prolonged period of time," Loitongbam said.
Speaking on the occasion, W.A.Shishak, former Chief Justice, High Court of Chhattisgarh and former Chairperson, Manipur State Human Rights Commission, stressed on the need for appointment of people with honesty, integrity and impeccable character to strengthen the Manipur State Human Rights Commission in order to address human rights violations.
"Torture, disappearances and extra-judicial killings are very serious human rights violations and each such allegation must be thoroughly investigated and justice is provided to victims or to their next of kin," said Y.S.R. Murthy, Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights Studies, JGU.
"In this context, the situation of widows and children orphaned by conflict must be fully addressed. Our Centre is preparing a report in this regard to advance the cause of rule of law and justice," Murthy said.