Kargil hero kin petitions UN for justice

New Delhi, Dec. 11: The family of slain Indian Army officer, Captain Saurabh Kalia, has petitioned the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate his torture by the Pakistani army during the Kargil war of 1999.

The Kalia family has petitioned the UN forum after the government refused to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking action against Pakistan. But the Kalia family had sought directions to the government to move the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Government sources said there were legal and diplomatic reasons for not going to the ICC.

The ICJ is a UN court and the ICC is a world tribunal.

On November 27, the war hero's father, N.K. Kalia, moved the Supreme Court asking for directions to the government to move the ICJ against Pakistan's "war crimes".

The Rajya Sabha MP from Karnataka, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and an NGO called the Flags of Honour Foundation have engaged a Bangalore-based legal firm to represent Kalia's case before the Special Rapporteur on Torture in the UN human rights body.

"We respectfully request that your office enquires into this matter and takes appropriate steps to urge the Government of Pakistan to conduct an enquiry into the matter and ascertain those responsible for the torture and death of Captain Kalia. We also request your office to ensure that a full and independent investigation is opened immediately and that justice is achieved," the petition says.

Last week, army chief General Bikram Singh also supported the Kalia family's efforts to get justice.

"He was our brave officer who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in the best traditions of the Indian Army. We have written to the ministry of defence and National Human Rights Commission conveying our concerns in the matter. We fully support his parents," General Singh said during the National Defence Academy's Passing Out Parade in Pune.

The Kalia family has approached the UN after repeated petitions to the Indian government since 1999.

The petition to the UN says Lieutenant Saurabh Kalia (he was promoted as Captain after his death) of the 4 Jat Regiment with five soldiers were patrolling Indian territory near the army's Bajrang Post at heights between 13,000 and 14,000 feet in May 1999 when they were captured by a Pakistan army unit that had intruded.

Skardu Radio operating out of PoK is said to have reported their capture though Pakistan's Director General of Military Operations denied it.

The bodies of Captain Kalia and his men, Sepoys Bhanwar Lal Bhagaria, Bhikaram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh, were handed over by the Pakistan Army on June 9, 1999. The post-mortem report indicated that the soldiers were tortured. According to it, Kalia suffered from shock, brain injuries, multiple fractures, burns and gunshot wounds.

His father, a retired government scientist, made repeated pleas to the government ' from the Prime Minister to the defence and external affairs ministers ' to take up the matter with Pakistan but Delhi has refused so far.

Government sources said the case cannot be taken up with the ICJ unless both countries are willing. Even to make an effort to go to the ICJ would involve a U-turn in policy. They said India and Pakistan are not members of the ICC. Besides, the government could not guarantee Pakistan's response if they were to raise the Kalia issue at the diplomatic level.

They said two months after the Kargil war a Pakistani military aircraft that had intruded into Indian airspace was shot down in Gujarat. Pakistan at the time wanted to go to the ICJ but India had refused.

The sources said the International Criminal Court had come into existence in 2002 and did not take up cases before that date.