The Jammu and Kashmir government must ensure an independent criminal investigation into the killing of a 24-year-old student by army personnel on 13 April, Amnesty International India said.

Khalid Muzafar Wani was killed by Indian army personnel in the Kamla forests in Pulwama district on the morning of 13 April . The Indian army in a press statement said that Khalid was an ‘overground worker’ for the Hizbul Mujahideen, a banned armed group, and was killed in a gun battle with army personnel.

The Director-General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, told Amnesty International India that Khalid Muzafar Wani’s brother was a senior member of the Hizbul Mujahideen, and said that the police was investigating whether Khalid Muzafar Wani also had any links to armed groups.

According to the police, Khalid Muzafar Wani, along with three other friends, had gone to meet his brother in Kamla forests. The three other men are in police custody. The police say an autopsy has been carried out, whose results will be made public soon. They also claim to have found the body of another suspected member of an armed group from the Kamla forests on Tuesday.

Speaking to Amnesty International India, Khalid’s father Mohammed Muzafar Wani called the death of his son a ‘fake encounter’, or staged extrajudicial execution. He said, “When we received my son’s body, there were no bullet wounds on it. His head had severe injuries and several teeth had been pulled out.”

Mohammed Muzafar Wani told Amnesty International India that he believed his son was killed because his brother was suspected of being a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, has called the killing ‘unfortunate’ and said the army should have acted with caution.

“The Jammu and Kashmir government must ensure a swift, thorough and impartial investigation to determine if Khalid Muzafar Wani was killed in an extrajudicial execution. They must also look into the family’s claims that he was targeted because of his brother’s suspected links with a banned armed group,” said Shemeer Babu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India.

“If sufficient evidence is found, those suspected must be prosecuted in a civilian court. Army authorities must co-operate with the investigation, and not try to shield soldiers from prosecution.”

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.”

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act provides security force personnel with sweeping powers, and virtual immunity from prosecution by requiring prior permission from the central government before they can be prosecuted. This permission is almost never given. The law has facilitated grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and torture and other ill- treatment. Amnesty International India continues to call for the repeal of the law.

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