California Domestic Violence Case Can Help End Impunity in Kashmir

April 4, 2011

This is part of a series of articles on Kashmir for Amnesty International’s Security and Human Rights Campaign.

You can take action to end impunity for human rights violations in Kashmir by taking action.

Major Avtar Singh, a retired officer in the Indian Army and an indicted human rights violator, was arrested in February 2011 on domestic violence charges in an agricultural region of California. While he should definitely face charges in California on domestic violence charges, he must also be extradited to India to face murder charges for the killing of a human rights lawyer in 1996.

The story starts in 1996 during the height of the violence that wracked the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Many human rights organizations, civil society groups and human rights defenders faced threats from anti-India militants and Indian security forces.

One of those of brave human rights defenders, Jalil Andrabi, paid with his life. Andrabi was a prominent defender of human rights in the Kashmir Valley, exposing a number of human rights violations committed by Indian security forces. He was last seen on March 8, 1996, when he was taken away by Srinagar based military personnel who were led at that time by Major Avtar Singh. Nineteen days later, Jalil Andrabi’s dead body was found in the Jhelum River.

Those responsible for the death of Jalil Andrabi have remained free for years, despite persistent efforts by his family and members of the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association to obtain legal redress for his death.

As you know, we have released a report on administrative detentions in Kashmir and visited the region as part of the release. So, we had a chance to speak Jalil Andrabi’s brother and lawyer, Arshad Andrabi. He blamed the Indian authorities for failing to ensure that Major Singh stood trial even after he was named as accused by a special investigation team set up on the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir high court a year after the murder. According to Arshad Andrabi, evidence exists which suggests that at least five others were present in the room at the time of Jalil’s death, but none of them were ever charged with any offence.

Arshad Andrabi accused the Indian authorities of trying to avoid a trial. The Jammu and Kashmir high court had noted that the central government officials had not been cooperating with the special investigation team in a proper manner, and the Indian army has also failed to take any action, merely stating that Major Singh was untraceable. Singh left India for Canada before moving to the United States.

Well, Government of India, he’s been found and it’s time to stop abdicating your responsibilities in this matter. Seek the extradition of Major Avtar Singh and prosecute him for the cold-blooded murder of Jalil Andrabi. You can help by taking action and writing the Indian Embassy on this matter.

For more on human rights in South Asia, please follow me on Twitter: