UK law firm seeking the arrest of Indian Home Minister and Army Chief using the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction for the Crimes Against Humanity
They submitted 2000 pieces of evidence of torture, rape, kidnappings, and killings of human rights defenders, journalists, and activists.
By Tazeen Hasan
On January 14, 2022, a news piece on the Al-Jazeera website caught my attention. It was about prosecuting a Syrian army General in Germany for war crimes committed in Syria.
According to the news, prosecutors in Germany indicted Raslan, a Syrian officer using "universal jurisdiction”.
The news said that universal jurisdiction is a legal principle stipulating that standard territorial restraints on prosecutions do not apply in the case of crimes against humanity and genocide.
The general defected from the Syrian army within one year of the beginning of the rebellion in 2021 (the Syrian uprising began in 2011), left Syria, and later got asylum in Germany.
While sharing the news with my colleagues at Justice For All, my comments on the report were:
“This can be a precedence for trying cases against Indian army and government officials outside Indian jurisdiction.”
I further wrote in comments:
“While they prosecuted and convicted a defected officer from the Syrian army, they are ignoring Indian army officers in Kashmir who are involved in worst human rights violations. For example, torture, extrajudicial killings, rapes, arbitrary detentions, and indiscriminate use of force against Kashmiri civilians for 30 years. At least they can refuse visas to officers and soldiers stationed in Kashmir to stop this genocide and persecution.”
Ironically, Germany used this universal jurisdiction principle to prosecute a Syrian general who had defected from the Syrian army. Still, Germany and other European countries have consistently ignored grave human rights violations in Kashmir, a disputed territory recognized by several United Nations resolutions.
Little did I know at the moment that activists in London were working on this idea.
It is a pleasant surprise that within five days, i.e., on January 19, 2022, a London-based law firm initiated the process of 'universal jurisdiction' to prosecute Indian Home Minister Amit Shah and an Indian army chief who are directly responsible for human rights violations in Kashmir.
The law firm applied together with British police to arrest India's army chief, and a senior Indian government official, over their alleged roles in war crimes in the disputed Himalayan region. The alleged war crimes include torture, kidnapping, killing activists, journalists, and civilians.
The law firm submitted the testimonies with extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police's War Crimes Unit.
According to a report by Ankara-based TRT news, 'Law firm Stoke White submitted evidence including 2,000 testimonies (taken between 2020 and 2021) to UK police documenting how troops led by General MM Naravane and Home Minister Amit Shah were directly involved in alleged war crimes and torture in the disputed region.'
The report further reads, “Hakan Camuz, Director of international law at Stoke White, says he hopes the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK.”
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.
Today's development is that UK police have appointed an investigator and Metropolitan Police detectives on whether to review the allegations of war crimes. “Detectives in London received a referral “concerning allegations of Core International Crimes”, a Scotland Yard spokesperson confirmed to ITV News, adding “a decision will be taken whether to open an investigation”.
I highly recommend that we follow the same model initiated in Germany and followed by UK human rights defenders in the US and Canada. We have enough evidence regarding human rights violations in Kashmir.
On behalf of Justice For All, I appreciate Hakan Camus and the staff of Stoke White law firm for initiating this process and taking action against the Indian state’s aggression in Kashmir.
Tazeen Hasan is a Campaign Manager and writer at Justice For All Canada. She is co-author of two books published in Canada. Her focus is International human rights law and International humanitarian law.