SRINAGAR: In occupied Kashmir, the Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international rights body, has urged Indian authorities to investigate each incident where ammunition, including pellets, were used to determine if the use of force was proportionate.

HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly in an interview with a Srinagar-based English daily said “de facto impunity prevails for the government forces in Kashmir”, Kashmir Media Service (KMS) reported. She said, “For too long, inquiries are ordered, but we see no outcome. It is for this reason we have been calling for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and other laws that provide immunity from prosecution.”

Ganguly said, “There are repeated allegations that riot-control guns which fire pellets instead of live ammunition were not used properly, leading to severe injuries, even deaths,” she said, adding that even bystanders were injured.

“Those responsible for violations should know that they will be held to account, not protected from prosecution after internal inquiries that are considered neither transparent nor fair,” said Ganguly who has previously served as the South Asia Correspondent for Time Magazine before joining Human Rights Watch.

“The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms say that law enforcement officials should apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force, use force only in proportion to the seriousness of the offense, and only when strictly unavoidable to protect life,” Ganguly said, adding that if the government insists that it has ordered maximum restraint and “if those orders are disobeyed, or there are violations of procedure, troops have to be held to account.”

She said there has clearly been excessive and indiscriminate use of force leading to scores of fatalities and hundreds of injuries in the recent protests. “There are repeated allegations about abusive and rough treatment by security officials deployed on the streets,” she said, adding that the state response to peaceful protests has also been disappointing.