Victims’ families to depose in court martial
‘We’re Apprehensive Of Trial At Nagrota, Want Security, Counsel’
PATHRIBAL FAKE ENCOUNTER
Islamabad (Anantnag), Sep 13: The Army has summoned the families of the five civilians allegedly killed in a fake encounter in Pathribal village of this South Kashmir district in March, 2000, to participate in the court martial of the accused soldiers at 16 Corps Headquarters in Nagrota, Jammu. However, the families of the victims, apprehensive of the proceedings, are demanding security from the State and a counsel to plead their case.
The summon issued by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 16 Corps, Lieutenant General AS Nandal, has asked the families to attend the trial as witnesses on September 20.
“Whereas hearing of charge will be held at HQ 16 Corps (Nagrota) on the 20th day of September 2012 against the accused persons in the Pathribal encounter case. I do hereby summon and require you to attend as witness, at Nagrota on the 20th day of September, 2012, at 10:00 hours and bring with you relevant documents/material, if any, so to attend from day to day until you shall be duly discharged, you shall fail at your peril,” reads the summons.
Interestingly, the summons have also been issued in favor of one of the victim Jumma Khan’s father Faqirulllah Khan of Brari Aangan village who had died before the Pathribal incident and also in favor of his name sake victim Jumma Khan’s father, Amirullah Khan of Brari Aangan village who too was not alive at the time of incident.
The summons have also been issued to the wives of these victims, Roshan Jan and Mirza Noori, who according to their family members are aged and ailing. The summons have also been issued in favor of the family members of other three victims- Zahoor Dalal of Moomin Abad Islamabad, Bashir Ahmad Bhat of Kapran and Muhammad Yousuf Malik of Kapran.
“One of the prime witnesses who has been following the case, Rashid Khan S/O Jumma Khan, has not been summoned for court martial proceedings,” said a leading criminal lawyer of Islamabad district court, Advocate Muneer Shawl. He said that the venue of the court martial proceedings should have been near the place of the victims rather than in Nagrota.
The family members of the victims are also apprehensive of the court martial trial and have asked the state Government to provide security to them.
“We are apprehensive that the Army in order to protect its own men might try to influence the witnesses and distort the facts,” said Rashid Khan, S/O Jumma Khan.
He said that her mother, Roshan Jan, who has been summoned, is old and ailing and was not in a position to go to Nagrota and depose before the court martial. “How can we identify the Army personnel involved in the killings. What we know is that on the fateful day the men in uniform appeared in the dead of the night and picked up my father to be killed later in a fake encounter at Pathribal,” said Rashid.
Shakoor Khan, the son of other Jumma Khan, while echoing the same apprehensions asked the Chief Minister to intervene.
“My mother is also too old and cannot understand any language other than Gojri, so I fail to understand why she has been summoned,” said Shakoor.
“Let the State produce the witnesses before the court martial or else provide us counsel of our choice who can properly translate our statements,” said Shakoor.
“We have been told by the Army of the local camp that we will be escorted by their men to Nagrota and not the state police. This has made us more apprehensive,” the family members added.
APEX COURT OBSERVATIONS:
In January this year, Army told the Supreme Court that it will not take over the case of its officers involved in the fake encounter from the civilian court.
The Army said the initiation of proceedings without Central Government’s permission is illegal in the wake of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Supreme Court criticized the Army for its stand regarding the issue, saying that neither is it willing to take over the case nor is it allowing a case in civilian court.
“Nothing has been happening for the last 10 years regarding the case. Victims have not been able to get justice,” the Supreme Court observed.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also criticized the Army, stating that it has been trying to bury the case.
On March 19, CBI told the Supreme Court that the Pathribal encounter was in fact a “cold blooded murder” and that the guilty officers deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.
On May 1, the Supreme Court had given the Army eight weeks to decide whether the accused should be tried by a regular criminal court or face a court martial. The ruling had disappointed rights groups fighting to have the soldiers tried in a criminal court.
On June 29, the Army decided to opt for court martial to try five accused officers and subsequently the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Srinagar (designated CBI court) transferred the whole record of the case to Army authorities for initiating proceedings against the accused army men under the Army Act.
Five days after the massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora, on 25 March 2000, troops killed five men in Pathribal village of Islamabad district claiming that those killed were "foreign militants" responsible for the slaughter. Official reports claimed that troops had, after a gunfight, blown up the hut where the ‘militants’ were hiding, and had retrieved five bodies that had been charred beyond recognition. The bodies were buried separately without any postmortem examination.
Local observers and political activists doubted the Government's reports.
Over the following days, locals began to protest, claiming that the slain men were ordinary civilians who had been killed in a fake encounter and not "foreign militants."
According to them, up to 17 men had been detained and had "disappeared." Local authorities in Islamabad (Anantnag) relented to growing public pressure and agreed to exhume the bodies and conduct an investigation into the deaths.
With no action being taken with regard to the promised investigation into the killings, the local population grew increasingly restless. On 3 April 2000, an estimated 4000 to 5000 protesters started marching to the Islamabad town where they intended to present a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner demanding exhumation of bodies. When they reached Brakpora village, 3 kilometers from Islamabad, the paramilitary CRPF men posted in a nearby camp and Special Operation Group (SOG) of Police opened fire on the protesters, killing seven civilians and injuring at least 15 more.
Tampered DNA samples:
On 5 April 2000, then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah ordered exhumation of the five bodies, which began the next day. DNA samples were collected from the bodies as well as 15 relatives of the missing men, and were submitted to forensic laboratories in Kolkata and Hyderabad.
However, in March 2002, it was discovered that the DNA samples allegedly taken from the bodies of the Pathribal victims (all of whom were men) had been tampered with, when, according to a report, lab workers found that samples had in fact been collected from females.
Fresh samples were collected in April 2002, which, upon testing, conclusively proved that the victims were innocent local civilians, and not foreign militants as Army and Government had been claiming for two years.
Meanwhile, the government headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah ordered a judicial enquiry into the case and Brakpora firing under Justice S R Pandian.
Later the Pathribal case was handed over to CBI. In 2006, CBI found five military officers guilty and charge-sheet was presented in a local court.
However, the Army appealed in the Supreme Court maintaining that the state Government has no jurisdiction to punish the Army personnel as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in force in Jammu and Kashmir.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Sep 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Sep 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Sep 2012 00:00:00 IST
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