Srinagar: Since decades the pro-freedom leadership is making appeals and seeking intervention of international courts, United Nations (UN) and international human rights bodies to investigate the ‘large-scale human rights abuses’ in Kashmir. Does it have any impact? No is the answer.
According to Kashmiri human rights lawyers and defenders who closely follow such appeals, there has been no effort by the pro-freedom leadership to make their appeals heard. They say that the leadership seems to be addressing more the local audience rather than international organisations while calling for such interventions in Kashmir.
The pro-freedom leaders have been regularly and frequently issuing statements in which they have appealed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), UN-supervised international tribunals, and ‘international human rights organisations’ to probe human rights abuses in Kashmir.
International courts like ICJ have no jurisdiction in Kashmir while the UN-supervised tribunals demand exhaustive documentation and can only act when all the local institutions of justice have been tried.
According to Karthik Muruktla, who has worked with the UN as a lawyer, there are two international courts – the ICJ at The Hague and the International Criminal Court (ICC) — which investigate human rights abuses.
“The ICJ is part of the United Nations. It intervenes when nation-states are involved. The issue of Kashmir can only be heard if either of the two states, India and Pakistan, approach the ICJ,” Karthik said, who has also studied international law.
As Kashmir has no status of a nation-state, it cannot approach the ICJ on its own.
In 2016, former Chief Justice of India TS Thakur opposed the idea of India seeking arbitration of Kashmir dispute with Pakistan at the ICJ. He had said that at the moment, Kashmir issue seems beyond solution.
“The ICC deals with criminal cases on individual basis. It means it will put on trial only individuals or institutions of the state, not the state. It was formed by group countries with a permanent structure. But India is not a signatory to the ICC. So this option can’t be utilised,” Karthik said.
He said that tribunals at the United Nations Security Council can look into human rights cases in Kashmir but they will only act when all the local institutions of justice are exhausted.
“The tribunals at UNSC can intervene only when all the processes of justice are exhausted. You also need to back the case with extensive documentation and lobbying. But the tribunal intervention can be vetoed as well,” Karthik said.
“The tribunals approved by the UNSC in case of Bosnia and Rwanda have worked. But they only fix individual responsibility in crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity. It means that the state cannot be held responsible for the crimes, only individuals,” Karthik informed.
Professor of Human Rights Law, Dr Sheikh Showket Hussain said that the pro-freedom leaders issue their press notes for local consumption.
“It is less an appeal to international forums than a posture taken before the local population,” Hussain said. “They (pro-freedom leadership) press the wrong button. The ICJ has no locus standi on Kashmir. International forums can be invoked, but it demands serious work and documentation. They have restricted themselves to issuing statements only.”
Hussain said that the unfortunate part of human rights work in Kashmir is that people who are “supposed to work for human rights indulge in politics, and the leaders become human rights defenders.”
He said that both the pro-freedom leaders and human rights defenders in Kashmir are not fully acquainted with the international system of human rights.
“Leaders and professional human rights defenders should follow the appropriate procedure laid down by international watchdogs. Nobody follows it here,” he said.
Hussain said that Kashmir needs need professionals who will follow proper procedure and take cases of human rights abuse to international forums professionally.
“We have a deficit of such professionals. We stared a diploma course in Kashmir University to train people in such work. We wanted to develop their capacity but that course was not allowed to work,” he said.
Hussain, however, said that it is no certainty that the international justice system will deliver.
“It is a fact that international forums are also biased. The rules for weak are different and the powerful countries always get away with rights violations,” Hussain said. “Professional human rights work is not an easy task in Kashmir. People have paid their lives for it. Jalees Andrabi and Dr Ashai are glaring examples of the risk to life that comes in field work on human rights violations.”
A non-Kashmiri human rights defender, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the call for international intervention has remained restricted to talks and press notes issued by pro-freedom groups.
“They have no documentation which will establish their case in the UN. They do not lobby for their appeals to be heard. If you have to document cases of rape, sexual abuse, torture or other rights violations, there is a proper format set by the world body. It is exhaustive work. Unfortunately, neither the human right defenders nor the pro-resistance groups have done it,” the defender said, who has also visited Geneva to represent the Kashmir case.
Even in Geneva, the defender said, leaders of the Hurriyat who are based in Pakistan do not come with proper paper work.
“A result can come only when we have proper research and documentation,” the defender said, adding, “The appeals to International rights organisations will continue to remain useless unless the proper mechanism to register the abuse cases established by such organisations is followed.”
The defender said that international rights organisations do not respond to blank appeals.
“You have to establish your cases. The problem is, there is no evidence lying with them,” the defender said.
Coordinator of the Coalition of Civil Society (CCS), Khurram Parvez, agreed that documentation to prove injustice is lacking in Kashmir.
“To a certain degree, CCS is trying to document cases in a professional manner. But the scale of human rights abuses is such, it needs huge human and material resources,” Khurram said.
“The Hurriyats have no proper documentation of human rights abuse. They do not fight the cases long enough to show that the institutions of justice have failed,” he said. “Just take the case of Syed Ali Geelani sahib. The High Court asked the state to release him but the state kept him under detention. The next step should have been the Supreme Court. But the Hurriyat dropped the case. If they would have fought the case and if the state would have failed to act, the case was ready to be taken to international forums,” Khurram said.