Hundreds of unidentified graves – believed to contain victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses - have been found in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
Amnesty International has urged the Indian government to launch urgent investigations into the mass graves, which are thought to contain the remains of victims of human rights abuses in the context of the armed conflict that has raged in the region since 1989.
The findings appear in the report Facts under Ground, issued on 29 March by the Srinagar-based Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). The report details the existence of multiple graves which, because of their proximity to Pakistan controlled-areas, are in areas not accessible without the specific permission of the security forces. Since 2006, the graves of at least 940 people are reported to have been discovered in 18 villages in Uri district alone.
The Indian army has claimed that those found buried were armed rebels and "foreign militants" killed lawfully in armed encounters with military forces. However, the report recounts testimonies from local villagers saying that most buried were local residents hailing from the state.
The report alleges that more than 8,000 persons have gone missing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. The Indian authorities put the figure at less than 4.000, claiming that most of these went to Pakistan to join armed opposition groups.
In 2006, a state police report confirmed the deaths in custody of 331 persons, and also 111 enforced disappearances following detention since 1989.
Unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture are violations of both international human rights law and international humanitarian law, set out in treaties to which India is a state party. They also constitute international crimes.
Amnesty International has called on the Indian government to unequivocally condemn enforced disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir and ensure that prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all sites of mass graves in the region are immediately carried out by forensic experts in line with the relevant UN Model Protocol.
All past and current allegations of enforced disappearances must be investigated and, where there is sufficient evidence, anyone suspected of responsibility for such crimes must be prosecuted in fair trial proceedings, with all victims granted full reparations.