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‘Based on 2,000 testimonies’: London law firm files complaint with British police, seeks ‘arrest of Indian army chief for war crimes in Kashmir’

The Associated Press reported on Monday that a London-based law firm has filed an application with British police seeking the arrest of the Indian army chief and other senior Indian government officials over their alleged war crimes in Jammu and Kashmir.

A law firm, Stoke White, said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian forces headed by General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping, and killing of activists, journalists and civilians.

Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said the police application was made on behalf of the family of Zia Mustafa, a jailed Pakistani militant whom Camuz said was the victim of an extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and the behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.

Zia Mustafa was arrested in 2003 by J&K Police and accused of being the mastermind of the Nadimarg massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in March that year. He was the last surviving accused in the case.

On October 17, last year, J&K police said in a statement that “Zia Mustafa, a Pakistani LeT militant, was taken to Bhata Durian in Poonch for identification of militant hideout during the ongoing operation…”.  According to the police, during the search “militants again opened fire on the joint team of police and army personnel in which two policemen and an army trooper sustained injuries. Mustafa also sustained injuries and could not be extracted from the site due to heavy fire”.

While nine Indian army troopers, including two officers, were slain in the days-long gunfight, there was no trace of militants despite a major search operation by the Indian forces in Rajouri and Poonch forests close to the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. 

The law firm’s report was based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021. It also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.

“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to territory that is part of the Himalayan region.

The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” which gives countries the authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

“We are asking the U.K. government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.

The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

Its report also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.

The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been taken abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.

Hakan Camuz said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the U.K. Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.

Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi. Rights groups have also criticized the conduct of militant groups, accusing them of carrying out human rights violations against civilians.

India’s Foreign Ministry told the AP it was not aware of the report and refused to comment. The Ministry of Home Affairs also did not comment, according to the news wire.

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