US, torture and Wikileaks

Torture was committed and is being committed. Those in power can’t escape liability simply by blaming their predecessors and present opponents

Torture is one of the heinous crimes against humanity. It doesn’t only include physical torture but psychological one as well. Human Rights groups and political formations of Kashmir have always been complaining against rampant use of torture in Jammu and Kashmir by the state and its various instruments.

It is forbidden under the provisions of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is a specific convention pertaining to it in the form of Convention Against Torture (1984). India is yet to become party to this convention despite recommendations by the National Human Rights Commission for its ratification. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits its use in Non-International armed conflicts.

India is a party to Geneva Conventions. Protecting people against torture remains an obligation for Indian State under various instruments of international law. In United States, courts have declared protection against torture, a rule of customary international law thus, binding upon parties as well as non parties to various international instruments.

It is now confirmed through Wikileaks that torture is rampant in the state of J&K and is commonly used against civilians. The various forms of torture enumerated in the Wikileaks include use of rollers, electric shocks, sexual abuse, beating, suspension from ceiling, crushing of muscles and other forms of physical assault. The embassy cables leaked are based on information’s gathered by the International Committee of Red Cross through interviews of 1296 detainees. Of these 65% (852) reported ill treatment, 52.54% (681) complained about being subjected to torture. 38.42 %( 498) were given electric shocks, 29.38% (381) had being suspended from ceiling, 23.3% (302) subjected to sexual assault and 22.68% (294) had suffered from crushing of muscles during torture. All the cases interviewed were from jails.   Detention centres other than jails did not remain open to the delegations of Red Cross.

It is an acknowledged fact that most of the torture occurs in detention centres other than jails.  Thus the existence of torture in all its  forms and manifestations pursued in Kashmir is not wholly covered by the leaks. There are hundreds of other methods and forms of torture which have been and are consistently used in the state of J&K. There is a high incidence of rhabdomyolysis (a disease caused by torture) in Jammu and Kashmir. Occurrence of the disease in Kashmir even surpasses the numbers that were infested by it during the Second World War. Rape too has been used as a mode of torture in Kashmir indiscriminately. The incidents from Shopain to Kunanposhpora are just symbols of malaise that has overtaken Kashmiri population.

In most of my discourses on human rights, I often blame Kashmiri’s for not highlighting their victimisation and impress upon them sensitivity of the international community towards human rights abuses. The fact that US and other global powers remained aware of the abuses and did not act is a shock for everyone who has been working for human rights in Kashmir. Despite information from the most authentic, credible and neutral source ICRC, Americans failed to take any initiative against torture in Kashmir. Mere fact that US ambassador in Delhi communicated it to the State Department does not suffice to authenticate American credentials about Human Rights. Had such information emerged from any African, Latin American or Muslim country, Americans would have been in forefront for asking an international investigation, appointment of war-crime tribunal or imposition of sanctions against the country involved.

Indifference and no action on these reports depict what is commonly alleged in the Muslim World as double standards of American foreign policy. Since the victims of torture in Kashmir happen to be Muslims, therefore Americans didn’t find any need of pursuing this case despite the fact that most of those who suffered remain ordinary civilians as had rightly been pointed out by in the leaks. It was support of the Muslim world that enabled United States to sail through troubled waters of cold war era and gain victory over its rivals. Once Cold War was over US targeted Muslim countries one after another and remained indifferent towards sufferings of Muslim people. Muslims are sought to be consoled by the eloquence and oratory of President Obama while US exploit every avenue of economic exploitation. American Foreign Policy has undergone a paradigm shift within past two decades. Concern for Human Rights, which used to be cornerstone of this foreign policy during cold war era, has been pushed aside by economic considerations. A state which serves American economic interests can perpetrate any sort of Human Rights abuses and war crimes, yet American administration will reward it with promises of support for a position in highest seats of power at international level. The states which are economically irrelevant can become targets of economic sanctions and isolation for a less degree of Human Rights abuses. What is true about Americans, same holds true about the governments in Delhi and Srinagar.

Torture was committed and is being committed by state agencies. Those in power can’t escape liability simply by blaming their predecessors and present opponents for torture. What is needed is a comprehensive probe into the allegations, identifying those involved and penalizing them. The job has to be assigned to some credible agency. Justice should not only be done, it should be seen to have been done. Local probes and investigations from New Delhi have lost all their credibility in the eyes of the victims. Same way, the remedies available at the level of judiciary as well as Human Rights Commissions have proved to be illusory for the victims simply because all this happened despite existence of these forums.  American rating and rating of those in power will only be ascertained by the actions which they take in response to the facts which have been established beyond doubt.

Author teaches at the Department of Law, University of Kashmir and can be mailed at