A London-based law firm has filed an application with the British police seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and home minister over their roles in war crimes in disputed Jammu and Kashmir.
The law firm Stoke White has said that it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian troops headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians.
The law firm’s report was based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021. It also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.
“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report stated.
The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been taken abroad against Indian authorities over war crimes in Kashmir.
Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince the British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.
Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.
“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.
The police application was made on behalf of the family of Zia Mustafa, a resident of Azad Jammu and Kashmir who was the victim of an extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and the behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.
Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic human rights abuses and arrest those who oppose India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. In 2018, the UN human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir.
The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuses have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Its report also includes details about the arrest of prominent Kashmiri rights defender Khurram Parvez, by the Indian authorities last year. Parvez is the Coordinator of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which has written extensive reports about Indian troops’ use of violence and torture in IIOJK.
Other accounts in the report discuss journalist Sajad Gul, who was arrested earlier this month after he posted a video of family members and relatives protesting the killing of a youth.
Camuz said he hoped the request to the British police seeking the arrest of Indian officials will be followed by other legal actions also focusing on Kashmir. “We are sure this is not going to be the last one, there will probably be many more applications,” he said.
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