Human Right Cell and Handling of Human Rights Violation Cases in the Army

General

1.    With the increasing deployment of the army in Counter Insurgency operations since 1993, cases of alleged violations of Human Rights were on the increase.  International and National media were giving a lot of coverage to such reports which in most cases were biased and false.  Western World in association with IMF, WB had also attempted to link economic assistance to Human Rights issues.  No Parliament Session was complete without the Hon’ble Members of Parliament raising questions on the state of Human Rights with particular reference to J&K and North East regions. While addressing the importance of Human Rights and its protection, the Govt was also contemplating to establish a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).  Thus a necessity was felt for having an organization in the army to monitor all alleged excesses, analyse them, and provide appropriate response so that a correct picture emerges and credibility of our actions maintained.   The Human Rights Cell (HRC) was  established  at  Army  Headquarters  in  Mar 93.

Role

2.    The role of HRC is to monitor, analyse and respond to alleged Human Rights (HR) violations/excesses by the Army personnel.

Organisation

3.    The HRC is a part of Adjutant General's Branch and functions under Additional Directorate General, Discipline & Vigilance.  The organisation comprises the following :-  

(a)     Director (Colonel). 

(b)     Joint Director ( Lt Col ).

4.    This cell functions under the Discipline and Vigilance Directorate headed by a Major General with one of the Brigadiers (DDG - B) looking into HR aspects besides other disciplinary matters. Similarly, there is a Human Rights Cell at every Command & Corps HQs, which is headed by a Colonel rank officer.
 

Functioning

5.    The HRC acts as a nodal agency for receiving allegations from various agencies, investigating the veracity of such allegations and ensuring corrective action is taken to minimize HR abuses.  Subsequently similar cells have also been established at the Command, Corps and Division/Force HQ level in Counter Insurgency areas.

6.     Charter of duties of the HRC are given below :-

(a)     On receipt of allegations/reports on HR violation, HRC will seek factual details from the Command HQ.

(b)     HRC will function in close liaison with the Military Operations and Military Intelligence Directorates, Judge Advocate General's Department and the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs and Home Affairs.

(c)     HRC will maintain records of important HR related events/incidents and follow up action taken at Army HQ  including disciplinary action ordered, punishments awarded and disposal of cases.

(d)     HRC will interact with National and International HR organisations through the Ministry of Defence/Home Affairs. 

(e)     Prepare a consolidated data bank on all allegations raised/likely to be raised, for future reference/analysis. 

7.     The HRC receives allegations of HR violations from any of the following sources, through the MOD :-

(a)     NHRC.

(b)     MHA, MEA.

(c)     Media.

(d)     Reports published by various Human Rights organisations. 

(e)     Suo Motto cognizance by the Army.

8.     The allegation so received are sent to the concerned Command HQ for investigation and detailed report/comments. The detailed report with recommendations of Commanders in chain is vetted in the HRC.  The detailed report of NHRC cases are then approved by the Adjutant General before being dispatched to the MoD and that of Non-NHRC cases, are approved by the DC&W and sent to MoD.
 

Investigation of Allegations

9.     It is pertinent in this context to highlight that there are numerous allegations made against the Army which are found to be false and baseless.  Statistically more than 96 percent are found to be false.  

10.     The enquiry into an allegation of HR violation by the Army personnel is ordered by higher headquarters and enquiry commission comprises of members from units other than the unit being enquired into.  The enquiry also examines civilian witnesses.  

11.     The enquiry reports contain not only Army’s version but also have police reports and reports of village headman / respected elders.  Thus it is not only Army’s version that is being projected in the investigation report.  

12.     In very large number of cases the allegations are leveled years after the incident which clearly indicates the same being done as an after thought with an aim to gather compensation or with other ulterior motives of maligning the image of Armed Forces.  In many cases no FIR is lodged soon after the incident.

Allegations

13.     Although we carry out detailed investigations in each case, our experience shows that most of these allegations are false and unfounded.  Whenever our troops have erred prompt and strict disciplinary action is taken.  The statistics on allegations updated upto 31 Dec 2011 are attached as Annexure-I.(sub link)


HR Training

14.     There has been a concerted effort to sensitize all ranks from the soldier to the officer on human rights.  The subject is included in the training curriculum right from the time when a soldier is inducted into the army and is continued later at various levels of courses and in the information level training.  Units when inducted into insurgency areas go through an intensive re-orientation capsule in specially established Counter Insurgency Training schools, where HR training is included in the syllabus. Formations and training institutes are holding seminars, where on invitation, hon'ble members of NHRC, media personalities and other eminent speakers come to give their views on various HR aspects and later have an interaction with officers and men to gather first hand knowledge about ground realities.  The troops are acquainted with the concept of HR including familiarization with the Protection of Human Rights Act.  The following are stressed on :-

(a)  Human Rights during War and Peace.

(b)  Rights of Prisoners of War.

(c)  Fundamental Rights as per the Constitution.

(d)  Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958.

(e)  The Chief of Army Staff's (COAS) Ten Commandments.

(f)  DO's and Don'ts while operating in CI ops areas.

(g)  Case studies are discussed in order to enable better assimilation of the subject.

15.     Army has traditionally been the epitome of discipline. The COAS has impressed upon all ranks that even as we perform our duty to the nation, to fight and triumph over terrorism, we must observe highest standards of human rights.  And in doing so, discharge our duties with full respect for the laws of the land and the rights of all of the people who inhabit it. No human rights violation is acceptable. This has been made explicitly clear to all ranks by issuing detailed guidelines  in Annexure II (sub link) while operating  under Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

16.     These guidelines lay down the `Code of Conduct’ for all ranks while operating in counter terrorist/insurgency environment. Any violation/disregard to these guidelines entails strict disciplinary action.


Miscellaneous Issues

17.     The aspect of Human Rights figure very high on Army’s Operational matrix and we remain committed to do everything possible to further improve our track record in this field.  Further, providing assistance to the local populace   by  forming ‘Civic Action Teams’   is     an integral part of Army’s Counter Insurgency operations.   To foster greater cooperation  with the local population and improve living conditions of the people in  under developed areas infested with insurgency/terrorism, the   Army units have  initiated a number of measures/ projects as given below :- 

(a)     Setting up and running of health centers, schools, vocational  training centers etc.  

(b)     Providing basic needs to people in remote areas.  

(c)     Assisting the civil administration  in providing good administration and attending to the grievances of the locals.  

(d)     Undertaking development work in the affected areas.  

18.     Army ensures that upholding and respect of human rights of civilian populations is a part of our job whether in aid to civil power at times of natural  calamity, riots or strikes, or in countering  insurgency.  Wining the hearts and minds of the population and respecting their rights forms the main pillar of our fight against terrorism.  Indian Army remains committed towards the promotion and protection of Human Rights.