Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must ensure that people injured in shootings by security forces have access to medical assistance, and medical professionals can carry out their work without interference, Amnesty International India said today.

Security forces must use live ammunition only as a last resort to protect against a threat to life, and not use pellet-firing shotguns against protestors.

At least 23 people, including two children, have been killed in firing by security forces during demonstrations following the killing of a leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen, a banned armed group, on Friday. Over 200 have been injured. A policeman was killed after his vehicle was pushed into a river by a mob in Anantnag district. The state police have reported attacks on police stations and other public property, and looting of weapons. It said that scores of policemen have been injured.

Local newspapers have reported that injured people had been assaulted while on their way to or while being treated at hospitals.

A man who was accompanying an injured protestor to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar told Amnesty International India that they were stopped by security forces several times and beaten.

“The security forces cut and pulled out glucose and blood drips from the injured, and the window panes of our vehicle were also broken,” he said.

The Resident Doctors Association of SMHS hospital has said that security forces fired tear gas shells inside the hospital compound and harassed hospital staff. The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a prominent human rights organization, said in a statement: “Besides the protestors, the CRPF [a paramilitary force] and police at various places have assaulted the patients and attendants inside the hospitals and ambulances…Since Saturday, at least four times the Police and CRPF [a paramilitary force] have raided the hospital.”

“Any attacks on health facilities or medical professionals are unacceptable, and must be prosecuted,” said Zahoor Wani, Campaigner at Amnesty International India.

A doctor at the SMHS hospital described the situation as one of “mayhem”. He said that many people were being admitted with pellet injuries and bullet wounds. According to a media report, around 40 of the injured admitted to the hospital had pellet injuries in their eyes; 18 have been operated upon, and doctors say that none of them may get their vision back completely.

Pellet-firing shotguns fire a large number of small pellets spreading over a wide range. Their use is not in line with international standards on the use of force, as they cannot ensure well-targeted shots and risk causing serious injury, including to bystanders or other protesters not engaging in violence.

“Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have a duty to protect lives, but they must use force only where it is necessary and to the extent required,” said Zahoor Wani. “Security forces must distinguish between persons engaging in violence and peaceful demonstrators or bystanders.”

“Protestors who engage in human rights abuses must be held accountable for their actions. But any heavy-handedness by those policing the protests risks exacerbating a situation that is already tense.”

Mehbooba Mufti, the J&K Chief Minister, has said that her government would take note of complaints of use of disproportionate force by security forces.

According to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, firearms should only be used as a last resort, and the intentional lethal use of firearms must only be employed when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir must respect the right to life at all times, in accordance with the Constitution of India and international law and standards.