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ARMED FORCES AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AS A

CURRENT NATIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGE


HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION CAN CONTRIBUTE TO PEACE BUILDING AND
MAINTAINING INTERNAL PEACE AND STABILITY OF A NATION

ASIF AHMED
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Abstract
Violation of human rights is unfortunately common. Human rights are violated on a large scale during
wars, and armed conflicts. On the account of the alarming rise in armed conflicts and other forms of
violence in different parts of the world, most of which are internal in character, countless innocent people
have to face hardships and suffering. Political or social actions aimed at alleviating the hardships can be
successful only if there is a foundation of humanitarian laws that protect the rights and dignity of
individuals and groups. Human rights and national security are at times perceived to be at odds with one
another. When Government official speaks about national security, their arguments rest primarily upon the
premise that protecting human rights and civil liberties is at times subservient to protecting national
security. In India, the government has passed stringent laws protecting national security and combating
terrorist threats, but these same laws cannot pass the test of human rights scrutiny. During the last five
decades since independence, India has made significant efforts to strengthen the legal, constitutional, and
institutional framework to protect, promote and institutionalize human rights. Over last two decades, the
increasing involvement of the Indian Armed Forces, mainly the Army, in management of internal conflicts
and internal upsets has increased manifold as has its pre-occupation under the pretext of in aid to civil
authorities and in internal security duties. The Indian armed forces are being increasingly used in Low
intensity conflicts (LIC) and Counter insurgency operations (CI) in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East
region, as also some other States are facing the menace of militancy, naxalism and terrorism from past to
present time. The Armed forces of the Union including Para Military force have been deployed in some
disturbed areas to aid and assist the State Government authorities to handle internal security situation. In
carrying out these tasks, the Army has time and again, come under criticism for human rights violations.
Many governments, international agencies and NGOs today faced with daunting task of re-establishing
peace and order in post-war societies. In so doing rights are an essential component of just societies, but in
that HRE is a necessary element in the process of re-establishing stable and just post-war societies . Human
rights education should draw the law enforcing personnel more and more into this effort where they
become lifelong learners. Human rights education should been introduced in the whole curriculum of the
Armed Forces, Police Training Institutions and the other agencies. Human rights education and awarenessraising for law enforcement officers should be regarded as the priority of human rights policy in India.

KEYWORDS: Armed Forces, Counter Insurgency, Education, Internal


Security, Human Rights
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Assistant Professor. Defence & Strategic Studies. Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra.
(Haryana) India asifahmed081@gmail.com

For a Saint it is right to see the same in every person. But, for a
Monarch and Soldier it is a great fault and source of disgrace
-- Kalhana -- Raj Tarangani
Introduction
Human Rights are those minimal rights which every individual must have by virtue of his
being a Member of the human family, irrespective of any other consideration. They are
based on mankinds demand for a life in which the inherent dignity of the human being
will receive respect and consideration. The most basic rights are the ones that relate to
life, liberty and security. To these may be added the right to live with dignity. These
rights are equal and inalienable, and universally available to the human family. On
December, 1948 the United Nation General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948). India is a party to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. In India, the essential Human
Rights have been embodied in those parts of the constitution which deal with
Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of the State Policy. Such enjoyment of
fundamental freedom can only be achieved as provided when Government, the State and
the People are conscious of the need to ensure that everyone enjoys human rights.
Violation of Human Rights in War and Low Intensity Conflicts
One might be forgiven for thinking that the very nature of human rights is not a primary
consideration for the armed forces of a state which has established them for at least one
purpose, to fight a war on its behalf. The fighting of war necessarily involves loss of life,
injury to individuals and the destruction of property. There is, it might be argued, little
room to consider the human rights of those within the armed forces or those who come
into contact with them during a war, whether of an international or of a non-international
kind. To provide some amelioration of the condition of the victims of the war, to control
the method of war and to limit its consequences, particularly as they affect civilian
objects, states have, over a period of time, agreed by treaty to a wide body of
international humanitarian law.
Violation of human rights is unfortunately common. Human rights are violated on a large
scale during wars, and armed conflicts. This happens in spite of the fact that the basic
rules of international humanitarian law- protocols, (International Committee of the Red
Cross, 1983). In times of peace human rights violations are common in countries under
dictatorship but are also known to take place in the most open democracies. The seminal
problem of all laws, including humanitarian law, is the yawning gap between percepts
and practices. Possibly, the best way to control the violation of human rights is to educate
people about their rights and raise an outcry against violation. On the account of the
alarming rise in armed conflicts and other forms of violence in different parts of the
world, most of which are internal in character, countless innocent people have to face
hardships and suffering. Political or social actions aimed at alleviating the hardships can
be successful only if there is a foundation of humanitarian laws that protect the rights and
dignity of individuals and groups. International humanitarian law is a very important
branch of international law, which regulates situations of international and internal armed
conflicts basically by making it obligatory for parties in a conflict to spare persons not

participating in hostilities, and by restricting excessively dangerous or indiscriminate


means and methods of warfare.
Human Rights Implications of National Security Laws in India
Human rights and national security are at times perceived to be at odds with one another.
When Government official speaks about national security, their arguments rest primarily
upon the premise that protecting human rights and civil liberties is at times subservient to
protecting national security. In India, the government has passed stringent laws protecting
national security and combating terrorist threats, but these same laws cannot pass the test
of human rights scrutiny. During the last five decades since independence, India has
made significant efforts to strengthen the legal, constitutional, and institutional
framework to protect, promote and institutionalize human rights. Since the 1980s, the
Indian judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court of India, has supported these efforts
through numerous judgments limiting the powers of government--including police and
other enforcement machinery--while simultaneously expanding the notions of freedom
and liberty. These limitations were justified by invoking a broad and purposive
interpretation of Fundamental Rights, which are enshrined in Chapter III of the
Constitution of India. The international human rights framework, conventions or treaties
to which India was a signatory or ratifying party, also justified the limitations on
governmental powers. However, the contemporary reality of Indian executive governance
demonstrates the weaknesses and inadequacies of the treaties and conventions. As a
result, police, military and para-military forces continue to violate human rights. This
problem underscores the need to develop a culture amongst law enforcement officials that
respects human rights as a sine qua non for the preservation of the rule of law. Passing
certain laws under the guise of protecting national security in India offers an occasion to
examine the human rights understanding in a constitutional sense. These laws granted
significant powers to the Indian executive, thus providing greater opportunity for abuse
and violation of fundamental rights.
The Indian Experience of Counter Insurgency Operations
Over last two decades, the increasing involvement of the Indian Armed Forces, mainly
the Army, in management of internal conflicts and internal upsets has increased manifold
as has its pre-occupation under the pretext of in aid to civil authorities and in internal
security duties. The Indian Armys engagement in counter insurgency operations for
more than 50 years in the North East and for nearly two decades in J & K has sometimes
made it deviate from its civilized ways and its conduct has not been completely free of
blemish. The Indian armed forces are being increasingly used in Low intensity conflicts
(LIC) and Counter insurgency operations (CI) in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East
region, as also some other States are facing the menace of militancy, naxalism and
terrorism from past to present time. The Armed forces of the Union including Para
Military force have been deployed in some disturbed areas to aid and assist the State
Government authorities to handle internal security situation. In carrying out these tasks,
the Army has time and again, come under criticism for human rights violations. The
internal threats to security and stability of India are from elements within our own nation
and from our own people (may be at time encouraged and supported by our external and
internal adversaries) and therefore, great care and caution should have been exercised

while assigning the role and employing Indian Armed Forces in Internal Security duties.
Of course Internal Security duties or commitments should not be mixed up and confused
with natural disasters like cyclone, floods, tsunami, etc.
The Indian Armed Forces have often been accused of extra judicial execution of innocent
civilians, illegal imposition of curfew, rape, molestation and sexual harassment of
women, torture, forced labour and large scale looting of homes and granaries. Various
civil liberties organizations have considered the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958
(AFSPA), a colonial instrument, modeled on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1942,
which was enacted to neutralize the Quit India Movement by Britishers. They have
accused the Indian government of violating the International standards of human rights,
defined by the constitution and the International Bill of Human Rights. The United
Nations Human Rights Committee, in 1991, found Section 4 of the AFSPA to be
incompatible with Articles 6, 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights 1966, which was ratified by India on April 10, 1979. Section 4 of the
AFSPA grants special powers to army officers, JCOs and Non commissioned officers to
use force against a person who is acting in contravention of the law in a disturbed area. It
also grants them unlimited power to destroy a place being used by an armed group as a
training camp or hideout and the power to arrest a person without warrant on suspicion of
committing a cognizable offence.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958), the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act
(1967) and the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (2006) are some examples of
legalization which grant de facto impunity to the security forces. These Acts compound
the provisions of Sections of the Criminal Procedure Code (1973) which require prior
government permissions before starting legal proceedings against members of the armed
forces and the police. Media and some reports documents cases where Indian Security
Forces have shot civilians under the authority of law such as the Jammu and Kashmir
Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.
These laws, enacted during the beginning of the conflict, allow lethal force to be used
against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being
in force in the disturbed area. Many other laws offer state agents effective immunity
from criminal prosecution. These need to be reviewed and repealed as they grant
unfettered powers, which are often prone to human rights violations and result in
complete lack of accountability and India should ratify the U.N. Convention against
Torture, legislate against inhuman and degrading treatment and enforce it. Indeed, one of
the essential principles of international humanitarian law is that a distinction must be
made at all times and in all circumstances between combatants and non-combatants,
along with its corollary, a distinction between military targets and civilian targets, the
later to be protected. There are few conflicts in which this principal is fully respected.
National Human Rights Commission of India on Human Rights violation by Armed
Forces
The painful issue of how to protect human rights in times of terrorism and insurgency
confronted the National Human Rights Commissions within days of its establishment
(1993) with the tragic death of civilians in Bijbehara, in the state of J & K, in the course
of a firing by the Para-military force. The Commission took suo -muto cognizance of the

incident and after examining the reports, for which it had asked, concluded that excessive
force had been used. There has been a strict vigilance by the commission on such kinds
of violations. At times, there are allegations of human rights violations by the force who
conduct operations against terrorists and on receipt of such complaints, the Commission
calls for reports from concerned authorities.
Army has issued strict guidelines to all ranks on the observance Human Rights while
operating in such areas. It has also been reported that since 1994, there have been 1318
allegations of Human Rights violations of which, 1269 have been investigated and 54
have been found to be true. 115 persons have been punished. The National Human Rights
Commission of India had long back recommended the repeal of the AFSPA, and the
enlightened world public opinion stands for the repeal. In the last 18 years, the
Commission has endeavored to curb violation of Human Rights as well as to promote a
culture of Human Rights in the country through various measures. The Commission has
been organizing training programmes and workshops on Human Rights issues since its
inception. The target groups include Police personnel, Armed forces personnel, judicial
officers, Students, Public representatives, NGOs etc. The programmes cover general
Human Rights awareness as also some specific issues like rights of the disadvantaged
sections e.g. women, tribals, food security, right to education and health and custodial
justice etc. The Know your rights series brought out by the Commission has proved
highly useful in spreading Human Rights awareness. Other publications include
Handbook on Human Rights for Judicial Officers, Disability Manual, and Human Rights
Education (HRE) for beginners etc.
The National Human Rights Commission requires a broader mandate, greater
independence and empowerment to be able to conduct its own investigations and to
enforce its decisions. The Protection of Human Rights Act (2006), which was further,
diluted its independence, will need to be changed. As declared by the United Nations
General Assembly adopted a resolution on December 17, 1979 that all police officers
shall respect and protect human dignity and uphold the human rights of all persons as
well it applies to the armed forces, they have to abide by the international conventions
against torture and other cruel punishments, principles of international cooperation in the
detention, arrest, extraditions and punishment against humanity, which is paramount in
the functioning of the police is not abide by. Since time immemorial police have not been
able leash its atrocities in spite of the commendable job done by them. Time and again
National Human Rights Commission has been show causing the officials of the police as
to why an action should not be taken against them. It is of utmost importance to
understand various human rights of the individuals, the situations in which violations are
likely if sufficient care is not exercised and the likely allegations or charges against
personnel of Armed Forces as well the Police.
Role of a Security Personnel in protection of Human Rights and Internal Security
The right relating to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the individual guaranteed by the
constitution or embodied in the international covenants and enforceable by the courts in
India. Since there has been an increase in number of cases of terrorist activities,
communal riots, activities of Naxalism the role of security forces have become
paramount and necessary. These forces although play an important role in protecting the
borders, and now their requirement is even more necessary in controlling civil unrest,

enhancing the security at the important places and also control and maintain law and
order whenever required. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on
December 17, 1979 that all security personnel shall respect and protect human dignity
and uphold the human rights of all persons as well it applies to the armed forces, they
have to abide by the International conventions against torture and other cruel
punishments, principles of international cooperation in the detention, arrest, extraditions
and punishment against humanity.
Indian Armed Forces stand on Alleged Human Rights Violations
The understanding of the citizens in uniform concept varies from country to country
depending on history, military culture, transition from authoritarian rule to democracy,
and experience with war and conflict. There is therefore no single model for protecting
the human rights of armed forces personnel. A clear constitutional basis is recommended
for the armed forces. However they do set the context for the functioning of the armed
forces at home and abroad. Constitutional framework is especially important in countries
where there has been a transition from civil war. Human rights education should be a core
component of training, especially where armed forces have been involved in intercommunal conflict.
Indian Defence Minister A K Antony said at a seminar on Internal Security though
cases of human rights violations by security forces have been rare, even a single instance
of human rights violation is totally unacceptable. Human rights are the lifeblood of a
democracy and Terrorists have no regard for human life, or rights and attack the vary
basis of a democratic set-up, but they underestimate, or overlook the resilience of a
democratic country like ours. One of the major challenges in countering terror is that
security forces, on the one hand, have to preserve the territorial integrity, sovereignty of
the nation and give a sense of security to the people. On the other hand, in the process of
combating terrorism, they also run the risk of being dubbed as authoritarian and
repressive. Through repeated terror attacks, the terrorists want the security forces to make
mistakes which can be projected as a violation of human rights. Though cases of human
rights violation by security forces have been rare, even a single instance of human rights
violation is totally unacceptable. The Indian Armed Forces personnel are made aware of
the respect for human rights and laws at every stage of their military training. This
awareness must be translated into action on the ground. Our Armed Forces must
consciously follow the twin ethics of minimum use of force and good faith during
operations against an invisible and ruthless enemy. Though the constraints of the
security forces are understandable, the security forces too must bear in mind that the
process of winning the hearts and minds of people is never an easy one task.
In India, the traditional application of humanitarian law to the armed forces is almost as
old as the armed conflict themselves. The Indian Army took immediate cognizance of the
protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. It established its Human Rights Cell in March
1993, six months prior to the establishment of the National Human Rights Commission in
India. Its (COAS) Ten Commandments laying down the code of conduct for all ranks
operating against armed insurgents and terrorists i.e. Dos or Donts, are recognized by
the Indian Judicial System, and by the United Nations. The doubts about human rights
conduct of the soldiers in India and abroad arise currently on account of lack of

understanding about terrorism and insurgencies, the difficulties faced in dealing with
them, and human rights aberration that take place in such operations.
The Armed Forces may be called upon to provide aid to civil authorities for maintenance
of law and order, counter insurgencies, combat terrorism and help the public during
natural calamities. While dealing in these types of situations, the Armed Forces come in
contact with the public and unavoidably, uses some force, minimal though it may be. The
Indian Armed Forces are faced with the dilemma of containing insurgency on one hand
and to prevent violations of human rights on the other hand. The Indian Armed Forces
especially Army frequently has been painted as monstrous institution of the state
perpetrating widespread human rights violations by those very countries that in the first
place are responsible for funding separatism, insurgency and terrorism in India. While the
actions of the armed forces are closely monitored by human rights organizations, the
same is not applicable to the acts by the militants. The media too, apparently is oblivious
to the blatant human rights violations by the militants. Sometimes the security forces tend
to over react when some casualty occurs to their own comrade (soldier). The militants
fire at the security forces and then merge with the local population. This Provo Cates the
security forces to fire indiscriminately which in turn causes injuries to the local
population resulting in violation of human rights.
The Armed Forces are thus required to handle difficult situations during these situations
with firmness and courtesy so that its reputation for being impartial, friendly and
professionally component is maintained. When the Army is deployed too often for long
durations in counter insurgency operations, Counter Terrorist operations or law
enforcement, management and control of violence to acceptable level (Which is a new
concept adopted by our governing mechanism since last few years) under Disturbed Area
Act, Armed Forces Special Power Act and so on, it places very heavy and professionally
unrealistic demands on soldiers, junior leaders and officers particularly up to the rank of
Colonels(commanding officers of units deployed). In todays context, the army in
internal security duties is deployed in the most difficult areas and is operating
successfully under physical, mental and psychologically tiring conditions. The people
who look up to the army for their security and protection from external threats at times
feel antagonized, more so due to false propaganda against the Government of India and
the Indian Army. Thus the army finds itself in catch-22 situation, wherein the efficient,
courageous and exemplary performance of its role and duties is fraught with the risk of
damaging reputation, as has recently happened in Manipur, Assam and Kashmir.
Need of Human Rights Education for Para Military and Armed Forces in maintain
Internal Peace
Human Rights Education (HRE) is central to this ongoing process. The World
Conference on Human Rights in 1993 stated that Human rights education, training and
public information are essential for the promotion and achievement of stable and
harmonious relations among communities and for fostering mutual understanding,
tolerance and peace. It called on all States and institutions to include human rights,
humanitarian law, democracy and rule of law as subjects in the curricula of all learning
institutions in formal and non formal settings.
In India there is not such an institution that can teach the basics of interrogation to the
Army officers and other junior leaders. In this enthusiasm to extract the actionable

information the individual inadvertently violates human rights. Due to the acute shortage
of officers, there are a number of occasions when the counter insurgency operations are
being handled by junior and non commissioned officers who might not be adequately
equipped with knowledge pertaining to laws regarding human rights. In such
circumstances despite the best intentions, violations of human rights may occur. The
culture of instant result in forces often leads to irrational acts resulting in violations of
human rights. Many governments, international agencies and NGOs today faced with
daunting task of re-establishing peace and order in post-war societies. In so doing rights
are an essential component of just societies, but in that HRE is a necessary element in the
process of re-establishing stable and just post-war societies. Hence, human rights have
become an important concept in both popular and diplomatic language. Human Rights
Education (HRE) is based on the premise that human rights will reduce violence within
society, if understood as generally accepted principles and rules of society expressed and
adapted to a particular society and culture.
Conclusion
The Government of India has also the primary responsibility to comply with its earlier
national commitments and human rights obligations. The human rights policy should be
holistic and multilateral, urge upon accountability, transparency and follow-up actions of
the national institutions and officials. The argument that human rights must be sacrificed
for national security or national interests must be countered. In fact preservation of
human rights standards is the only way to ensure our nation remains secure, as violation
leads to greater alienation of the victims. In Armed and Para military forces the
traditional emphasis has been on training rather than education. In many western societies
training has tended to focus on the formal equipping of officers and soldiers with the
necessary knowledge of the law and development of practical skills to do their job.
Though the armed forces have always been conscious of human rights values, they have
been leveled with various allegations of violating the human rights. Thus it is important
that the various characteristics of human rights are known and understood by all
personnel so that they value them and do not violate them. It is therefore very essential
that the government and the armed forces must ensure the preservation and promotion of
human rights in the country. Time has come to re-educate the bureaucracy, the Ministry,
the media and the defence personnel with the universal human rights standard and
ramifications of human rights violations. The State human rights commissions have to be
recharged and reactivate. Human rights education should draw the law enforcing
personnel more and more into this effort where they become lifelong learners. Human
rights education should been introduced in the whole curriculum of the Armed Forces,
Police Training Institutions and the other agencies. Human rights education and
awareness-raising for law enforcement officers should be regarded as the priority of
human rights policy in India. All security practices ranging from arrest, interrogation to
treatment of suspected persons have been improved in line with human rights principles.
Any officers who violate human rights will be brought to justice or face disciplinary
action as soon as possible.
It is therefore necessary to understand limitations, implications and consequences of
prolonged deployment of the Army in internal security duties. This can be dangerous and

counterproductive in the long run. After certain length of time and even increase in force
levels in a conflict area then, Law of Diminishing Returns starts applying. Military
operations and prolonged deployment of army is useful and effective only to the some
extent. As much as possible Armed Forces are tasked only to ensure territorial integrity
and national security of a nation. Let us keep them well organized, equipped, trained and
motivated to meet future challenges and external threats.
(Assistant Professor. Defence & Strategic Studies. Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra.
(Haryana) India asifahmed081@gmail.com)

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