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07 January, 2009

AHRC asks Omar Abdullah to put promises into action

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) congratulates the new state government of Jammu and Kashmir set up under the leadership of the Chief Minister, Mr. Omar Abdullah. By their overwhelming participation, the people of the state have reiterated not only their belief in the pluralistic principle of democracy, but have also shown their lack of sentiments for violent movements that are active in the state. For this very reason, the new state administration has a high expectation of the people to live-up to.

After taking his oath as the youngest Chief Minister of the state on 5 January, one of the formal meetings that Abdullah attended was the Chief Ministers' conference convened in New Delhi. In this meeting, Abdullah emphasised the importance of respecting the human rights of the people, particularly by the security forces and the law enforcement agencies. For this to realise, Abdullah also stressed that it is important for the security forces to be sensitised about human rights.

Sensitisation of the security forces however does not happen by mere theory sessions or lectures. Sensitisation is a process that also includes practical aspects of respecting human and fundamental rights. This requires offering a safe and reliable opportunity for the people to register their complaints about rights abuses that ensures an impartial investigation followed by a prosecution. As of now in the state such mechanisms do not exist.

The deterrence value of an effective prosecution has more impact in sensitising a state agent than mere lectures. It also has the potential of further nurturing people's faith in the government they voted to power. Moreover it is the Constitutional duty of the government.

The statement made by Abdullah on 5 January that the panacea for defeating terrorism is spreading education, providing employment and the proper dispensation of justice is an encouragement for the deeply traumatised people of the state. The AHRC along with other civil society organisations and the people of the state expects that Abdullah and his government will put promises into action.

The current change of administration in Pakistan, which has come to power through an equally overwhelmingly participated democratic process, is a silver line in the clouded security environment in the state. Having the members of the Congress party as coalition partners in his ministry, Abdullah must make use of the opening to engage with the central government through constructive dialogues to find means to solve the problems faced by the people of the state.

It is important for the state government to spend more time to bring positive and remarkable changes in the security scenario of the state. This will help the state administration to convince the central government to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, which is currently used in the state. The state government while addressing future issues must also find means to provide redress in cases of disappearances, torture, custodial deaths and enforced evictions that were reported from the state in the past.

As of now, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is home to a traumatised population. Living up to the expectation of such a population requires hard work. Positive results kindle hope which can create a stable social fabric of tolerance, human values and peace. The AHRC along with the people of Jammu and Kashmir expects that the newly formed government in the state will live up to the expectation of the people and save the state from the abyss of fear and suspicion.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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