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Indian Army decide to court martial Pathribal killers; Victims of Chittisinghpura massacre still await justice

June 30, 2012 | By

Srinagar, Kashmir (June 30, 2012): As per news reports a Srinagar court has allowed General Court Martial proceedings to be held against the five army officers facing charges in the killing of five Kashmiris in south Kashmir’s Pathribal area in 2000. It is notable that five innocent Kashmiris were killed by Indian Army as cover-up for Chittisinghpura Massacre in which 36 Sikhs were massacred on the day of visit of then US President Mr. Clinton to India on 20 March 2000.

“In view of the options having being exercised by competent military authority for trial by army court, criminal court lacks jurisdiction to try the case initiated on the basis of FIR registered on February 14, 2003,” chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Rajeev Gupta in his order passed on Wednesday this week is reported to have said.

As per reports the court direction came after the Army sought transfer of the case from the CJM court in Srinagar to its own court. The court has directed transferring of the records, including the chargesheet and other material evidence to the army court.

These developments in the 12-year-old Pathribal killing case have come after the May 01, 2012 direction of Indian Supreme Court that asked the army to opt for an option, “either to prosecute the five soldiers in a military court or a civil court within two months”.

It is notable that in year 2000, immediately after 35 Sikhs were killed in Chattisinghpora by “unidentified” gunmen. However many Human Rights reports have raised finger towards Indian army for planning & executing these killings to defame Kashmiri movement against Indian occupation. Twelve years have passed and there is no explanation by Indian state or army or judiciary for the brutal massacre of Sikhs. The army had claimed to make a breakthrough in the case by killing five “militants”. Later, the five killed militants turned out to be civilians from local villages.

The five army men, identified by the CBI for having a role in the killings, were Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan. The CBI charge-sheeted the army men in 2006 for “killing five civilians and later dubbing them as foreign militants”.

Tehelka report adds that “Pathribal killings were a part of the three successive and related massacres between 20 March 2000 and 3 April, 2000, 49 people had died in this period. On 20 March, unidentified gunmen killed 36 Sikhs at Chittisinghpora followed by the Pathribal fake encounter on 25 March, 2000 and the killing of nine civilians who were part of the protest against this encounter at Brackpora on 3 April.”

“It was on the basis of fair report by the CBI that the SC described the killings as cold blooded murder. Shifting the case to the army court is saddening. We never get to know the court martial proceedings. They are never made public,” Rashid Khan, son of one of the victims Jumma Khan is reported to have said by Hindustan Times (HT).

“Army’s decision to go for court martial has been welcomed, albeit cautiously, by human rights groups in the state. “We don’t want to sound pessimistic, but we want the Army to make the police and CBI inquiry the basis for court martial. It cannot reject the findings of these probes and start a fresh investigation,” Khurram Parvez, coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society, a civil rights group, is reported to have said by Tehelka.

Khurram also called for the families in the case to be represented. “The inquiry should be transparent and accessible to the families of the victims. This will give them a sense of justice,” he is reported to have added.

Timeline of the case, as reported by HT:

1) March 20, 2000: On eve of former US president Bill Clinton’s visit to India in March 2000, 35 Sikhs were massacred by unknown gunmen.

2) March 25, 2000: Army claims killing seven foreign LeT militants in Pathribal involved in the incident.

3) On April 3, 2000: Security forces open firing on local protesters, killing seven at Brakpora, while demanding exhumation of the bodies and whereabouts of five missing youth from Pathribal.

4) October 31, 2000: Justice Pandian committee was asked to investigate Pathribal and Barkpora killings.

5) April 6, 2002: DNA profiling confirms the killed persons were civilians

6) In 2007, the SC stayed high court proceedings on an army plea that it can’t prosecute without permission from the Centre

7) March 2012: CBI told the SC it was a cold-blooded murder and no sanction was required to prosecute the army personnel

8.) May 1, 2012: Supreme Court asks the army either to opt for civil court prsecution or try in the army court

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