Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Friday said the Indian armed forces have utmost respect for laws related to protection of human rights, including those of the adversaries, IANS reported.

This came a day after the Army chief was criticised for making remarks about the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. He had said leaders are not those people who lead people in “inappropriate directions”. It is unusual for a serving Army chief to comment on the country’s internal affairs. Opposition parties admonished Rawat on Thursday, and asked him to stay within the limits of his office.

Addressing interns and senior officers of the National Human Rights Commission on “Preserving human rights in times of war and prisoners of war” at the Manav Adhikar Bhawan in Delhi, Rawat said the Indian armed forces was an “extremely secular” entity driven by the principles of “insaniyat” (humanity) and “sharafat”(decency).

“The Indian armed forces not only ensure protection of human rights of our own people but also of adversaries and deal with the prisoners of war as per the Geneva Conventions,” he added.

The Army chief said that unlike armed forces across the world, terror groups are not answerable to international law. “We have to counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations by identifying and alienating insurgents without causing collateral damage,” Rawat said. “This can be done only by winning the people’s hearts, which becomes very challenging and difficult.”

Rawat said that a human rights cell created by the Army headquarters in 1993 was now being upgraded to the level of a directorate, and will be headed by an officer of the additional director general rank. “This will also have police personnel to address the complaints of human rights violations against the armed forces and facilitate related enquiries,” he said.

A court of inquiry is held after every anti-insurgency operation and relevant records are also maintained to ensure transparency, the outgoing Army chief said.

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