The first public trial of what is being described as crimes against humanity in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian-controlled part of the Muslim-majority region, was held in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on Friday for three days.
This event is part of the Russell Tribunal, popular trials based on the idea put forward by the British Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Bertrand Russell.
It emerged when, in November 1966, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell announced the holding of a people’s trial for the purpose of investigating the US military intervention in Vietnam.
The tribunal was held in collaboration with the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, causing some to call it the “Russell Sartre Trial”.
After Russell’s departure, this idea inspired intellectuals, scholars and politicians around the world to establish similar courts on a number of cases that were not addressed in the official courts, the most famous of which are; Trials of human rights violations during the military dictatorships in Latin America (Rome 1973-1976).
The cases of the Arab world also had a large share in these people’s courts, as the Russell Court was held in 2004 in Brussels, regarding the American invasion of Iraq, and then in 2009 a trial was held with the aim of shedding light on the Israeli crimes in Palestine, following the attack launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip and the Operation Cast Lead.
The trial is organised by Kashmir Civitas, a Canadian non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the Global Forum for Awareness of Kashmir, the British Russell Foundation, the Permanent People’s Court of Bologna, Italy, and in cooperation with the International University of Sarajevo, the Bosnian Bee Association, and the Sarajevo Center for Advanced Studies.
The court includes 15 judges, academic and human rights figures from around the world, including the American Islamic preacher Omar Suleiman, and Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Washington, DC, a former senior analyst at the Gallup Center for Islamic Studies, and who was an advisor to the former US president Barack Obama.
The panel also includes British journalist Yvonne Ridley, American researcher Richard Falk and Pakistani human rights defender Nasirah Iqbal.
A number of writers, thinkers and human rights activists are participating in the court as witnesses to the crimes in Kashmir, including David Hurst, managing editor of Middle East Eye, and former chief writer of the British Guardian newspaper, The Guardian, Bosnian writer Hasan Nuhanović who was a survivor of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Witnesses rely on their testimony on reports from the United Nations, international human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and on interviews they conducted with survivors.
During the court sessions, the focus will be on 4 main themes:
• Genocide, which includes shedding light on the Jammu massacres, in which an estimated 230-500,000 people were killed in 1947.
• Decolonization, where it is emphasised that Kashmir is not a separatist movement, but a movement for liberation from colonialism.
• Settler colonialism, through the confiscation of lands by force, and the imposition of belonging to the Indian state by force of arms.
• Crimes against humanity and nuclear war, including mass graves, rape as a weapon of war and the constant threat of nuclear war in this disputed region.
We, in turn, emphasise the importance of these trials for their effective role in informing peoples of the violations that occur against other peoples, and thus moving to support them judicially and morally. It is also possible to build on what was stated later to build legal files that those countries, organisations and people are tried for what they have committed before international courts competent.