Amnesty Urges Centre to Speed Up 1984 Massacre Cases

The rights organisation has asked for a comprehensive reparation plan, robust laws to deal with communal violence and police reforms to prevent political interference.

A protest demanding that the accused in 1984 riot cases be brought to justice. Credit: PTI/Files

A protest demanding that the accused in 1984 riot cases be brought to justice. Credit: PTI/Files

New Delhi: The Indian arm of the global rights organisation Amnesty International has expressed its disappointment at the “slow progress” of the special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.

Following a conclave held on June 23, ‘Insaaf 1984’, Amnesty International India drew up a list of recommendations from the participating speakers and submitted it to the MHA for necessary action.

The rights body has urged the Narendra Modi government to ensure that “the victims and survivors of the 1984 massacre get the justice and closure they have awaited for decades”.

Dividing its recommendations into various segments, the organisation’s first demand is for an “effective investigation”. To this end, it has asked the Centre to “ensure that the SIT conducts a prompt and transparent investigation into the cases, including by making its proceedings accessible to the media and the public, while allowing victims and witnesses to request confidential hearings to protect themselves from reprisal.”

It has also called for facilitating the participation of victims and witnesses from outside India, including through video-conferencing. This is important because in some cases, the accused had objected to this provision.

Amnesty India has also asked that the SIT file charges against suspected perpetrators wherever sufficient evidence is found. “Ensure that all those suspected of involvement in the killings, including those with command responsibility, are prosecuted. Provide adequate protection to victims and witnesses to ensure that investigations and prosecutions can proceed without fear of reprisals,” it said.

The organisation has also called for developing and implementing a “comprehensive plan for reparation in full consultation with the victims and survivors of 1984, including young people, women and girls, and rights groups working with them”. The plan, it said, should be in line with the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and should entitle reparation to all persons who suffered physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights.

The rights organisation has also urged the Centre to issue a formal public apology on behalf of the government of India, including an acknowledgement of the facts and acceptance of responsibility. In 2005, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a public apology for the 1984 riots, but several Sikh groups had rejected it on the grounds that the apology should ideally come from the Nehru-Gandhi family. Subsequently, Sonia Gandhi had also issued an apology and her son, Rahul, had stated in a television interview that he shared her apology.

On the issue of legal and policy reforms, Amnesty International India has called for enacting a “robust law to prevent and respond to communal and targeted violence, which incorporates international human rights principles of superior and command responsibility, relief, return, and resettlement.”

The law, it added, should also recognise the right to remedy and reparation for all persons affected by communal and targeted violence, including internally displaced people. Amnesty has also demanded establishing a comprehensive and adequately-resourced victim and witness protection programme at the central and state levels, which remained independent of the state agencies such as the police.

At a structural level, it has also called for comprehensive police reforms to insulate the police from political interference and pressure. “Work with state governments to establish police complaints authorities at the state and district levels to investigate complaints about police misconduct. Work with state governments to establish fixed tenure for police officers, and set up a board to monitor recruitment, appointment and transfer of police,” said the recommendations, authored by Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India.