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HindustanTimes Wed,16 Apr 2014

No immunity for rape, says army brass in J&K

Toufiq Rashid, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, February 02, 2013
First Published: 00:24 IST(2/2/2013) | Last Updated: 00:26 IST(2/2/2013)

There can be “no immunity for a crime like rape”, but amendment to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) vis-à-vis crime against women can demoralise the forces, say the army brass in J&K.

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“Rape by anybody — soldier or civilian — is a crime. It is a sin which cannot be tolerated,” said General Officer Commanding Lt Gen Om Prakash. But it is also a fact that false allegations of rape are a reality in conflict zones, he added.

According to data from the army’s human rights division, till December 2011, of the 995 allegations of rights violation received, 25 were found to be true. The 59 army personnel found guilty have been punished.

“We can't let our men be arrested even before the authenticity of the allegation is proved,'' he said.

Lt Gen Prakash’s came in the wake of the Justice Verma panel’s recommendation of the review of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in cases of crime against women.

The commission, set up after the brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi, had recommended bringing the armed forces under criminal law to prevent sexual offences against women in J&K and the northeast.

Welcoming the recommendations, chief minister Omar Abdullah has promised that the government will review the laws related to crime against women and the AFSPA.

“In many instances, the offenders (from the forces) want to be tried in civil courts as the trial takes years,'' said Lt Gen Prakash. In contrast, in the military courts, punishment is swift and “much more severe than in civil courts”.

“But it is for the government to decide on the implementation of the amendments,” he added.

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