On January 2, 2020, 40 Israeli citizens filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Israel demanding that the Israeli Police be prevented from training Indian police officers involved in “severe violations” of human rights and international law in Kashmir.
The petition was filed after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Israeli Police and the Ministry of Internal Security refused to “pre-screen” specific Indian police officers who wish to train with the Israeli Police in the State of Israel, so that none of them are involved in, or responsible for, serious human rights violations in Kashmir, and in particular police officers who allegedly blind, murder, rape, torture and forcibly disappear civilians in Kashmir.
Indian police officers are being trained in “counter-terror warfare” by the Israeli Police in the State of Israel, as part of the agreement between the Government of the State of Israel and the Government of the Republic of India regarding cooperation on homeland and public security issues, from October 1, 2014. In 2017, the Israeli Ministry of Public Security said 120 Indian police officers had completed “a two-week course with the Israel Police on terrorism and intelligence”.
The Israeli citizens’ petition argues that the fact that India is the “biggest democracy in the world”, and an extremely important economic and political partner of the State of Israel and Western countries, cannot legally and morally justify the provision of assistance to specific Indian police officers that are involved and responsible for grave crimes under international law in Kashmir, by way of their training by the police in Israel.
Likewise, the fact that there are terrorist groups and separatist groups operating in Kashmir that commit grave crimes against representatives of the Indian government and security forces, crimes against the local civilian population in Kashmir, as well as crimes and terrorist acts across India, cannot justify morally or legally turning a blind eye to the collective punishment and human rights violations allegedly committed in Kashmir by Indian security forces, which include documented instances of torture, custodial killings and the detention of thousands for extended periods and without legal proceedings, the petition says.
In addition, hundreds have lost their eyesight in one and in some cases both eyes when, in response to demonstrations – both non-violent and those in which some participants throw stones at Indian security forces – soldiers and police have used live fire and pellet rifle fire. The pellet rifles that came into use by Indian security forces in Kashmir in 2010, quickly fire 400-600 small pieces of metal at a time, so there can be no guarantee that they will not cause unnecessary harm.
On August 5, 2019, the Government of India announced that it has unilaterally decided to scrap Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which was in force from the 1950s and granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir, except in the field of security, media and foreign relations.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of policemen and other security forces have been laying siege to the residents of Kashmir, and there is a fear that another wave of insurgency is about to break out, and accordingly another wave of massive repression and collective punishment. Among other things, the internet and communication lines were cut off and about 3,000 people were arrested. Among them are many of the pro-Indian elite that has run Kashmir for Delhi for many years, along with judges, lawyers, heads of the Kashmir Bar Association, businessmen, political and social activists, human rights activists, journalists, teachers, students and more. In addition, the Government of India prevents foreign journalists, human rights organisations and diplomats from visiting Kashmir. In 2019 alone, about 500 habeas corpus applications were pending with the Jammu and Kashmir high court, with some 300 filed after August 5.
On May 4, 2020, the Israeli Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted their response to the Supreme Court. Among other things, they sought to dismiss the petition on the grounds that an intervention as to the identity of the Indian police officers coming to Israel to participate in training would be construed as a blatant intervention by the State of Israel in India’s internal affairs, and could damage foreign relations and trust between both states.
In addition, the Israel Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that they do not have the practical ability to pre-screen police officers participating in the training, since this is information that the Israeli Police does not have access to. This is a very puzzling claim.
First, pre-screening can be done, among other things, by gathering information about which police officers are denied entry by Israel’s allies around the world (e.g., in the US), and which officers are mentioned in reports by local human rights organisations (e.g., the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons – APDP, which outlines a long list of police officers responsible for human rights violations and the forced disappearance of civilians); international groups (such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch); in reports by the UN and its various organisations; in legal proceedings in India; in investigations and publications of governmental and non-governmental human rights Commissions in India; and reports and publications of the lawyers’ organisations.
In addition, the collection of information is possible by requiring the presentation of a “police certificate” of sorts (a certificate of personal integrity) and a statement by the police officer who wishes to train in Israel as to which countries he has visited in recent years, that he has never been barred from entering another country, and has not been involved in severe human rights violations and crimes under international law. Even the Government of India requires that one answer a questionnaire on the matter in order to obtain an entrance visa, and it may prevent the entry of anyone who has been involved in an act of violence, genocide and killing on political grounds.
Second, one notes that the Israel Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have shown their ability to gather “intelligence” and “screen out” BDS activists who have sought to enter the State of Israel. It is surely no less important to prevent the entry into Israel, and training in Israel, of those who blind, murder, rape, torture and forcibly disappear civilians in Kashmir, than to prevent the entry into Israel of an American student who during her studies in Florida “fought” the selling of an Israeli-owned chickpea salad.
Another strange argument that has been made is that it is not possible to discriminate and be stricter with Indian police officers, and that such a policy would oblige the Israeli Police and the foreign ministry to filter out representatives of the security forces from other countries as well. One notes that just recently, in response to a freedom of information request, it became clear that the Israeli foreign ministry has no problem discriminating against Indian citizens – local cleaners at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi receive 7 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) per hour, while an American cleaner at the Israeli embassy in Washington receives 67 NIS per hour. A demand submitted to the foreign ministry to pay Indian local workers at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi at least the minimum wage under Israeli law (29 NIS) was turned down this week by the ministry’s legal adviser, Reut Rozenblum.
Especially after the State of Israel became entangled and after it was condemned all over the world for its military and political assistance to Myanmar, when crimes against humanity and genocide were committed against the Muslim Rohingya minority, it was expected from the Israeli government to take moral stock and take all necessary steps to prevent Israeli assistance to perpetration of crimes against another Muslim minority population.
Although the Israeli government wants to defend its economic and political interests at all costs vis-à-vis the anti-democratic government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is important that people in Kashmir know that there are also Israeli citizens who think otherwise, expressing solidarity with their struggle to end the repression and day-to-day violence they suffer from the security forces of the government and the illegal measures it is taking. These Israeli activists will do everything in their power to assist in the international campaign for the protection of human and civil rights in Kashmir.
Now we are waiting for the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling in the case.
Eitay Mack is an Israeli human rights lawyer and activist and represents the group of Israeli citizens who filed the above-mentioned petition. He also represents Palestinians in civil lawsuits and administrative courts against the Israeli security services.