Gujarat Pogrom












Contact Us


Deliver Justice

Amnesty International memorandum to the Government of Gujarat on its duties in the aftermath of the violence

At least 900 people have been killed in the Indian state of Gujarat since violence and rioting broke out on 28 February 2002 Several non governmental organizations, however, estimate that the actual number of the victims might be over 2000.. On 27 February, 58 Hindus were killed in the town of Godhra in an attack on a train. Mass killings followed the incident in large parts of the state, where the majority of the victims belonged to the Muslim community.

The violence is reported to have reached levels of brutality unprecedented in the state. Some form of organization and planning of the crimes committed is repeatedly suggested by survivors, eyewitnesses, relief workers, political commentators and members of extremist Hindu organizations themselves. Reports, including the statements of the Chair of the National Human Rights Commission, suggest that both the state administration and the police have taken insufficient action to protect the population of the state during the massacres, and in some cases may have even connived with the attackers.

Although the violence started to abate on 3 March, after the army was called in, isolated attacks and killings continue throughout the state to date.

Amnesty International reminds all the relevant government authorities in Gujarat that the violence, as well as the circumstances in which it happened, give rise to precise responsibilities for the state with respect to redress for the victims. The organization believes that two areas of concern need to be addressed by the government authorities as a matter of urgency, namely the need to deliver justice to the victims and the protection of the rights of the people displaced by the violence throughout the state.

1-The need for justice

Amnesty International believes that if the crimes carried out during the violence in Gujarat are not thoroughly investigated and those suspected of being responsible, together with their accomplices, brought to justice, the circumstances under which they were able to carry out those crimes may remain unchanged and they and others may remain free to repeat them.

In several cases in the past the investigation and prosecution of similar episodes of mass violence have not shown to be considered as a priority by the central or state governments, especially when a section of the government authorities was suspected to have connived with the attackers. Amnesty International believes that the expectation by the perpetrators and their accomplices not to be questioned on their role during the violence may have been one of the causes of the open, systematic and brutal nature of the violence in the Gujarat.

The Constitution of India clearly sets out in Article 32 the right of victims and their families to have access to remedies for the enforcement of fundamental rights when they appear to have been violated, as in the case of the alleged abuses committed during the violence in Gujarat. The Constitution is equally clear, in Article 14, about the fact that "the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India." This suggests that all victims of abuses have the right to seek justice, even when government authorities and police might share responsibility for the perpetration of those crimes.

The obligation of governments to conduct prompt, thorough, effective and impartial investigations into such killings is also established in international human rights standards, including Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by India in 1979, and the United National Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra - legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

Amnesty International believes that any official investigation or enquiry into the recent violence in Gujarat should have the following characteristics:

1. It should be impartial and not unduly lenient towards the security forces or other state agencies.

2. It should be effective, should obtain and consider all relevant evidence and should reach conclusions that are as firm as evidence permits.

3. It should be prompt. Undue delays will give rise to fears that the investigation is being blocked or evidence tempered. A time limit should be fixed for the completion of the investigation.

3. The methods of the investigation should be made public in advance and described in the report of the investigation.

4. Advance notices should be widely publicized inviting members of the public with relevant evidence to submit it to the investigation. Relatives of the victims and anyone else who has relevant information should have an opportunity to present it.

5. Relatives should have access to all information relevant to the investigation.

6. Anyone called to give testimony should at the outset be informed of the subject and purpose of the inquiry and of their right to legal counsel and other legal rights.

7. There should be an opportunity for the effective questioning of witnesses.

9. Complainants, witnesses, lawyers and others involved in the investigation should be protected from intimidation and reprisals.

10. Officials suspected of responsibility for the crimes investigated should be suspended from active duty during the investigation, as a precaution against the possibility of their perpetrating further such acts and to ensure the integrity of the investigation. They should be removed from any position of control or power over relatives, witnesses and others involved in the investigation while the investigation is in progress. These measures should be without prejudice to the outcome of the investigation, to the careers of the officers concerned or to any eventual judgment regarding their suspected involvement.

11. The report of the investigation, or at least the findings and recommendations, should be made public as soon as the investigation is completed. It should state the evidence on which the findings and recommendations are based.

12. Once the report has been submitted, the government should respond promptly, stating publicly what steps will be taken as a result. The findings should be acted on. Amnesty International believes that the Government of Gujarat should immediately and publicly state its commitment to act upon the recommendation of any official investigation into the Gujarat violence.

13. The pendency of a comprehensive investigation on the violence in Gujarat should not be presented by any executive or judicial officer as a reason to suspend or delay the prosecution in court of individuals having been accused of being involved in the abuses.

The body carrying out the investigation into the violence in Gujarat should have several characteristics:

1. It should be independent and separate from those allegedly responsible, or allegedly sharing any form of responsibility with them. Its members and staff, including the investigative staff, should not be associated with any person, governmental entity or political party potentially implicated in the matter.

2. It should have the necessary powers and resources to carry out its tasks, such as laboratory facilities, clerical equipment such as typewriters and computers and resources to travel and to hold hearings. It should be able to use the services of legal counsel and experts in such fields as ballistics, pathology and forensic science. It should have adequate investigative, administrative and clerical staff.

3. Those carrying out the investigation and their staff should be professionally competent for the required tasks.

4. They should be protected against intimidation and reprisals.

The terms of reference of any official investigation into the recent violence in Gujarat should include:

1. Both the initial incident which occurred in Godhra and the violence which followed it throughout the state.

2. The circumstances and causes of the whole wave of violence in the state.

3. The patterns of the violence and abuses as well as individual responsibilities.

4. Whether any individual, group or institution, including government authorities and elected representatives, is responsible for fomenting the violence or directly or indirectly provoking it.

5. Whether any individual, group or institution, including government authorities and elected representatives, is responsible for the offence of abetting, instigating or otherwise promoting the occurrence of the violence through their public statements.

6. The possibility of examining other matters which appear during the enquiry to be relevant to the issues under investigation.

7. The adequacy or otherwise of the precautionary and preventive measures taken by the police preceding the aforesaid incidents.

8. Whether the steps taken by the police in controlling the violence were adequate and proper and whether any killings resulting from the use of force and firearms by police were unlawful.

9. The issuing of recommendations for the criminal prosecution of those responsible.

10. Consideration of the institutional changes needed to prevent further occurrence of the same pattern of abuses, including legal changes, changes in administrative practice and procedures, recruitment, training and accountability of personnel.

11. Consideration of the means of providing adequate compensation and redress to victims and their families.

12. Consideration of the steps which need to be taken by the State Government for providing security for the minority and for their complete rehabilitation.

Amnesty International believes that, in view of the fact that the Government of Gujarat and different state agencies, including Gujarat Police, are suspected of sharing some form of responsibility for the manner in which they dealt with the violence, in this case an inquiry carried out by an agency appointed by the central government would have larger legitimacy.

The organization calls any body or institution mandated to investigate the abuses committed in Gujarat to carry out such an investigation according to the terms of reference and characteristics listed above in this document. Considering the magnitude of the task, the organization believes that extraordinary investigative resources should be assigned to the body carrying it out. Attention should be paid to the fact that the investigative staff used by any institution on this occasion do not belong to Gujarat Police. The attitude of this law enforcement agency during the violence would in fact be the object of the investigation itself.

Amnesty International acknowledges the proactive role taken by the National Human Rights Commission in the aftermath of the violence. On 1 March the NHRC issued a suo moto notice to the Government of Gujarat and to the Director General of Police asking them to submit a report on the incidents and the measures taken to contain them. On 21 March the NHRC rejected the Government of Gujarat's preliminary report as "perfunctory" and asked the government to file a more comprehensive one. A panel of the NHRC also visited Gujarat for three days from 20 March in order to take an independent view of the situation in the state. At the end of this tour the Chair of the NHRC publicly expressed the view that police inaction was a factor in the violence that followed the train attack. He criticized the state administration for failing to stem the violence, adding that "Things could have been better and all that happened could have been averted." Amnesty International calls on the NHRC to explore all possible avenues within its mandate to ensure that full light is shed on individual cases of abuses as well as on patterns of violations occurred in Gujarat.

Several non governmental organizations (NGOs) have publicly and repeatedly expressed the view that the judicial commission established by the Government of Gujarat on 6 March under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952, and composed of a retired judge of the Gujarat High Court may fall short of these requirements. The organizations have expressed concern in particular about the possible pressures a judicial commission appointed by the Government of Gujarat could be subjected to in the present context and that any investigation on the Gujarat violence should be initiated by a body appointed by the Government of India in order for this investigation to meet the necessary standards of impartiality. The record of impartiality of the only member of the aforementioned judicial commission with respect to previous incidents of violence targeting the minority community, as well as the lack of resources assigned to this body, have also been openly questioned by the same organizations.