UN report lays bare India’s true, terrible face in Kashmir

UN report lays bare India’s true, terrible face in Kashmir
  • 440
    Shares

OHCHR calls for commission of inquiry into killings and blindings, advocates right to self-determination, cites Kunan-Poshpora as instance of ‘chronic impunity for sexual violence’

Srinagar: A 49-page report, the first-ever issued by the United Nations on the human rights situation in both parts of Kashmir, was released on Thursday to outright rejection and condemnation by the Indian government as well as the main opposition party, the Congress.
The quick and unanimous dismissal of the report in India is due to the international embarrassment it causes to the Indian government and its forces in Kashmir.
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein while releasing the report.
“This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties, and provide redress for victims,” he said.
“It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir,” said Zeid.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) sought “establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”. It asked the governments of India and Pakistan to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”.
The UN High Commissioner called on “Indian security forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend.”
“It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid said.
“The UN Human Rights Office – which, despite repeated requests to both India and Pakistan over the past two years, has not been given unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control – undertook remote monitoring to produce the report, which covers both Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir,” a statement issued on the OHCHR website said.
About the report, it said, the main focus is the human rights situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed Burhan Wani – to April 2018.
“Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries, the report says, citing civil society estimates that up to 145 civilians were killed by the security forces between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018, with up to 20 other civilians killed by armed groups in the same period,” it said.
It said one of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in 2016 – and which is still being employed by security forces – was the pellet-firing shotgun. According to official figures, 17 people were killed by shotgun pellets between July 2016 and August 2017, and 6,221 people were injured by the metal pellets between 2016 and March 2017.
“Civil society organizations believe that many of them have been partially or completely blinded,” the report noted.
“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”
The AFSPA prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian Government grants prior permission to prosecute, it noted.
“This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report says.
There is also almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances, with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, it said.
Citing the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape, the report said that chronic impunity for sexual violence also remains a key concern in Kashmir. “An emblematic case is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape 27 years ago when, according to survivors, soldiers gang-raped 23 women.”

Key Recommendations to New Delhi:
“Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.”
“Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts.”
“Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016, as well as obstruction of medical services during the 2016 unrest, arson attacks against schools and incidents of excessive use of force by security forces including serious injuries caused by the use of the pellet-firing shotguns.”
“Investigate all deaths that have occurred in the context of security operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India.”
“Investigate all cases of abuses committed by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killings of minority Kashmiri Hindus since the late 1980s.”
“Provide reparations and rehabilitation to all individuals injured and the family of those killed in the context of security operations.”
“Investigate and prosecute all cases of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and provide reparations to victims.”
“Bring into compliance with international human rights standards all Indian laws and standard operating procedures relating to the use of force by law enforcement and security entities, particularly the use of firearms; immediately order the end of the use of pellet-firing shotguns in Jammu and Kashmir for the purpose of crowd control.”
“Amend the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 to ensure its compliance with international human rights law.”
“Release or, if appropriate, charge under applicable criminal offences all those held under administrative detention and ensure the full respect of standards of due process and fair trial guaranteed under International law.”
“Treat any person below the age of 18 who is arrested in a manner consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“Investigate all blanket bans or restrictions on access to the Internet and mobile telephone networks that were imposed in 2016, and ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the future.”
“End restrictions on the movement of journalists and arbitrary bans of the publication of newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“Ensure independent, impartial and credible investigations into all unmarked graves in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as directed by the State Human Rights Commission; if necessary, seek assistance from the Government of India and /or the international community.”
“Expand the competence of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission to investigate all human rights violations and abuses in the state, including those allegedly committed by central security forces.”
“Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol, and introduce enabling domestic laws as recommended during India’s UPR in 2008, 2012 and 2017.”

Key recommendations to Islamabad:
“Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.”
“Fully respect international human rights law obligations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir.”
“End the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and expressions of dissent, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to bring it in line with international human rights standards, including by incorporating human rights safeguards.”
“Federal and local authorities should amend sections of the Interim Constitution of Azad Jammu Kashmir and other relevant legislation that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association.”
“Immediately release from prison or house arrest any political activists, journalists and other civil society actors who have been convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions.”
“Federal and local authorities should amend the constitutions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to end the criminalization of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and to allow them to freely and safely exercise their freedom of religion or belief.”
“Abolish blasphemy provisions in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to facilitate the enjoyment of freedom of religion and belief by all people.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.