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Asia

Activists explain why India is not keen on the ICC

Only 15 Asian states, including S Korea, Afghanistan, Japan, Cambodia, Mongolia and Bangladesh, are party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). But India, along with China, is reluctant to ratify the Rome Treaty.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague

The International Criminal Court in The Hague

India likes to boast it is the biggest democracy in the world with 1.13 billion inhabitants. But just below the surface, tensions are simmering.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never tires from repeating that the biggest threat to India’s security are the Maoist rebels. The situation in Kashmir has been tense ever since Independence in 1947.

Recent history also paints a bleak picture. Human rights organizations estimate that in 1984 almost 3,000 people were killed in massacres triggered by the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Eight years after riots broke out between Hindus and Muslims in the state of Gujarat, these have yet to be dealt with. Some analysts even speak of genocide.

"Every Indian government could risk prosecution"

Indian lawyer and human rights activist Prashant Bhushan says that every Indian government could be brought to trial by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Activists accuse Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of failing to protect minority rights

Activists accuse Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of failing to protect minority rights

"Since the ratification process began, there have been two governments – one led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and this one led by Congress. If India had signed the ICC statute, Narendra Modi, the BJP chief minister of Gujarat, could be brought to trial.

"The same is true for the Congress Party, which says that it is acting against Maoist rebels but in reality is fighting against India’s indigenous population. Our politicians and those in power have always tried to influence the courts and the judiciary. They rightly fear that this would not be possible with the ICC," says Bhushan.

Genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity

The ICC prosecutes individuals for three particular crimes - crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.

These are officially embodied in Indian law, Bhushan concedes, “but in reality our legal system fell apart a long time ago. A normal citizen can barely ensure that his or her rights are guaranteed.

"Even if he or she tries, it can take years before a case is closed and accepted by all sides. There is also so much corruption. Rich and influential people have always exploited the system and will continue to do so."

Brutality in Indian-administered Kashmir

Parvez Imroz is an activist who has discovered mass graves and reported about torture and rape in Indian-administered Kashmir. He accuses the Indian security forces of acting brutally against the civilian population with impunity.

against the civilian population with impunity - here they are standing guard during a curfew

Indian soldiers in Kashmir allegedly use brutality against the civilian population with impunity - here they are standing guard during a curfew

"When one is in a conflict zone, one is under immense pressure from the state," he says. "If one reveals human rights violations or turns the disappearance of people without a trace into an international topic, the international community takes this very seriously. Pressure is then exercized on India to look into the allegations."

Experts say that India and other Asian states do not want to ratify the International Criminal Court out of fear they will lose their sovereignty and that they wil lose face in the eyes of world opinion. However, their refusal to ratify the statute has consequences. Only two of the judges in The Hague are from Asia.

Author: Priya Esselborn (act)
Editor: Disha Uppal

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