Chittoor killings: Rights group says police tortured victims
The 20 men gunned down by Andhra Pradesh security personnel in an alleged encounter this month were from disadvantaged tribes and bore marks of torture that “could only” have taken place in a secure police compound, a human rights group said on Wednesday.india Updated: Apr 23, 2015 01:24 IST
The 20 men gunned down by Andhra Pradesh security personnel in an alleged encounter this month were from disadvantaged tribes and bore marks of torture that “could only” have taken place in a secure police compound, a human rights group said on Wednesday.
The team from NGO People’s Watch said the most disturbing aspect of its investigation was the marks found on the bodies, alleging that the torture seemed to have been inflicted by “members of one group against another which it despises and dominates”.
The killings sparked nationwide outrage as Tamil Nadu said they were innocent labourers, but the Andhra government said the men from the neighbouring state were red sandalwood smugglers and were killed after they attacked a police task force, as the outnumbered security personnel opened fire in self-defence.
“The very disturbing conclusion is that, having illegally and forcibly abducted 20 innocent men on the night of the 6th April, members of the AP-RS-Special Task Force subjected them to a torture which was psychopathic in its cruelty and brutality,” said the report by the fact-finding mission headed by retired Bombay high court judge Hosbet Suresh.
The findings are the result of a probe by justice Suresh, former National Human Rights Commission member Satyabrata Pal and others. While the report has been sent to the Andhra and Tamil Nadu governments, it will be presented before the NHRC in Hyderabad on April 25.
The national rights watchdog will hear the killings case on Thursday at a camp in Andhra Pradesh.
According to the People’s Watch investigators, the police task force’s version of events came apart at the seams upon the smallest of probing.
In its 27-page report, the team said it found little or no evidence supporting the police personnel’s account that they fired in self-defence after 200 smugglers attacked them with sickles and knives.
It noted there was no proof of such a large number of men ever having been in the area – neither were there any trails of blood, nor did the area of seem to have been disturbed by so many footfalls.
The bodies of those killed showed they’d been shot at “close range” and that police used lethal force by shooting on the “necks and upper torsos”, the report says, adding that the victims also bore “marks on the limbs…indicating that…(they’d) been tied with ropes,” which supports the theory that these men were picked up by police before the incident.
“The inescapable conclusion that flows from this analysis of the facts available to the team is that 20 innocent villagers from Tamil Nadu, travelling through Andhra Pradesh in search of work, were murdered in cold blood by APTF, as the last act in a planned, elaborate operation,” the team said.