New Delhi: Amnesty International India has asked the Telangana government ‘to order an independent criminal investigation into the killing of five undertrials by Telangana police on 7 April. ‘ according to its web site amnesty.org.in.
The Telangana police say the five undertrials – Viqaruddin, Amjad Ali, Mohammed Hanif, Zakir Ali and Izhar Khan – were being taken in a van by 17 policemen from the Warangal central prison to a court in Hyderabad. The police say that the undertrials attempted to overpower the policemen and snatch their assault rifles, and claim they opened fire in self-defense.
Video footage given to Amnesty International India by a journalist appears to show the five undertrials inside the police van after they were killed. All five appear to be handcuffed.
“Impunity for extrajudicial executions is a serious issue in India,” said Abhirr V P, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India.“Authorities in Telangana need to urgently conduct an independent criminal investigation into the case to determine if it involved extrajudicial executions disguised as ‘encounter’ killings.”
The five undertrials had been arrested on suspicion of killing two police officials and a state paramilitary official in different incidents between 2007 and 2010, and other offences.
On 1 April, two suspected members of a banned group allegedly shot dead two policemen in Nalgonda, Telangana. The police say that the suspects were killed three days later in an armed exchange with the police, in which another policeman was also killed.
According to guidelines issued by the National Human Rights Commission in 2010, alleged ‘fake encounters’ must be investigated by an independent agency. In September 2014, the Supreme Court stated in the PUCL versus State of Maharashtra case that killings in police encounters require independent investigations.
The UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions require that “[t]here shall be thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions, including cases where…reliable reports suggest unnatural death in the above circumstances.”