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From Kashmir to California: in the footsteps of a wanted killer

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But Singh was never extradited. In an age when the reach of international justice is growing, Singh’s case highlights how much influence international relations and national politics can still warp the process. 

“It shows the ongoing hurdles that have to be overcome,” says Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director for the Canadian Centre for International Justice. He tried for a time to help locate Singh when he was missing. (Correction: The original article misstated Mr. Eisenbrandt's current affiliation.)

“Just because a perfectly innocent human rights lawyer is murdered doesn’t mean that you always bring the bad guys to account. You still have to deal with politics, both domestically and internationally,” he says.

Why I started writing about Singh

I first heard about Singh after I became a reporter in Kashmir in 2007.  Like many reporters in the disputed region, I wrote about him and the struggle of the families of his victims for elusive justice.

Singh was wanted for the kidnapping and murder of human rights activist Jaleel Andrabi in 1996. Months before his death, Mr. Andrabi had addressed a UN session in Geneva about human rights violations by India in Kashmir.

On the evening of March 8, 1996, Andrabi was driving home with his wife when he was stopped and taken away by Army personnel who were apparently waiting for him.

Twenty days later, police asked Andrabi’s younger brother to identify a body recovered from a jute sack in the Jhelum River. It was Andrabi: his hands tied behind his back, his eyes gouged out.

The Special Investigation Team formed to investigate the case – at the order of the high court in Kashmir – reported that everything pointed to Maj. Avtar Singh of the 35 Rashtriya Rifles unit as the person who had committed the murder. It also found that to eliminate the trail, Singh had murdered four Kashmiri counterinsurgents who had witnessed the killing.

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