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LG orders magisterial probe into Hyderpora shoot-out

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ADM Srinagar, Khurshid Ahmad Shah nominated Inquiry officer

Srinagar: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday ordered a magisterial probe into the Hyderpora killings, following which inquiry officer Khurshid Ahmad Shah began the proceedings and sought information from the public about the incident.

“A magisterial inquiry by officer of ADM rank has been ordered in Hyderpora encounter. Govt will take suitable action as soon as report is submitted in a time-bound manner. JK admin reiterates commitment of protecting lives of innocent civilians & it will ensure there is no injustice,” LG Manoj Sinha said in a tweet.

The magisterial probe was ordered amidst protests by the family members of three of the four persons killed on Monday. The family members of Altaf Ahmad Bhat (the building owner), Dr. Mudasir Gul (a tenant) and Amir Magray (Gul’s office boy) have been protesting against the killings, which they have described as “cold-blooded murder” of innocent civilians. The police claim those killed were “terror associates”.

They have demanded that the bodies of the deceased be handed over to them for the last rites.

All the four persons killed in the encounter were buried in the Handwara area of Kupwara district.

A controversy had erupted over Monday’s encounter in Hyderpora in Srinagar following conflicting claims about the deceased civilians as their family members contested the police’s charge that they were “terror associates”.

According to the police, a “Pakistani terrorist and his local associate” Mohammad Amir Magray, along with two civilians — Altaf Ahmad Bhat and Dr. Mudasir Gul — were killed in the encounter in a building in Hyderpora , where an “illegal call centre and a terror hideout” were allegedly being run.

The killing of businessman Altaf Ahmad Bhat, father of three minor children, along with Dr. Mudasir Gul and Amir Magray in a controversial shootout, has sparked allegations that they were used as a human-shield by security forces.

Political parties in the Valley have also been seeking an impartial probe into the incident.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international rights advocacy group headquartered in the US, has sought a “credible and independent” probe into the allegations that civilians were used as a human-shield during a shootout in Srinagar’s Hyderpora locality.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW, said it was the “responsibility of security forces to keep civilians from harm during an armed operation, not to place them in harm’s way.”

“The authorities should immediately order a transparent, credible and independent investigation into this incident,” Ganguly was quoted as saying by ‘The Wire’.

In a conflict situation, the Geneva Conventions, to which India is a signatory, forbid the use of human-shields who can be either civilians or prisoners of war. A human-shield is used by any side involved in a conflict in a potentially life-threatening situation to achieve their own military objectives.

According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), a French non-profit which works in conflict zones, including Kashmir, the use of civilians “to shield military objectives or operations” is a violation of international humanitarian laws.

“Such acts are clearly established as war crimes under international humanitarian law. Many categories of persons are specifically protected by humanitarian law, such as civilians, the wounded and sick, prisoners of war, and medical personnel,” the MSF notes.

Meanwhile, in an order (DMS/Jud/Inquiry/2838-2845/2021 dated 18 November, 2021) issued by the Srinagar District Magistrate Muhammad Aijaz Asad, Additional District Magistrate, Srinagar, Khurshid Ahmad Shah has been nominated as Inquiry Officer for conducting the enquiry into the matter “so as to ascertain the facts and circumstances related to the incident and the cause of death.”

Shah also issued a public notice, urging people who wish to record their statement in connection with Monday’s encounter where four persons were killed, to approach his office within 10 days.

“…the general public/person in knowledge of the incident and willing to record his/her statement or wants to give any other information about the incident, is being asked that he/she may attend the office of the Additional District Magistrate, Srinagar in the office complex of Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar Amar Niwas Complex, Tankipora, Srinagar for recording the statements in this matter within 10 days from the date of issuance of this notice from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM during working days, so that the enquiry in the said case is completed,” he said.

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