UNHRC chief flays India over Rohingya deportation and Kashmir access, India ‘perplexed’

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Geneva: Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Council, in his opening statement accused India of lacking “basic human compassion” in seeking to deport Rohingya refugees.

The UNHRC chief speaking at the Human Rights Council’s 36th session, criticized India for denying the Council access to Kashmir in order ascertain the human right violations there. Ra’ad Al Hussein, also raised concerns over the growing cow vigilantism in the country and the recent murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

“I deplore current measures in India to deport Rohingyas at a time of such violence against them in their country,” said Al Hussein on September 11. He noted that out of the 40,000 Rohingyas settled in India, 16,000 had been registered as refugees.

“The minister of state for home affairs has reportedly said that because India is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, the country can dispense with international law on the matter, together with basic human compassion,” said the UNHRC chief.

He noted that India cannot carry out deportations of Rohingyas as per international law.

“By virtue of customary law, its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the obligations of due process and the universal principle of non-refoulement, India cannot carry out collective expulsions, or return people to a place where they risk torture or other serious violation,” he said.

The Human Rights Council chief also criticized India over growing, religious intolerance, cow vigilantism and mob attacks.

“I am also dismayed by a broader rise of intolerance towards religious and other minorities in India. The current wave of violent, and often lethal, mob attacks against people under the pretext of protecting the lives of cows is alarming,” Al Hussein said.

“People who speak out for fundamental human rights are also threatened. Gauri Lankesh, a journalist who tirelessly addressed the corrosive effect of sectarianism and hatred, was assassinated last week,” he added.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also talked of his dismay over the reluctance of India and Pakistan to “engage with his office” over human rights concerns in Kashmir.

“This includes their failure to grant access to Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control to verify the worrying developments that continue to be reported there. In the absence of such access, my Office is undertaking remote monitoring of the human rights situation in Kashmir on both sides of the Line of Control,” Al Hussein said.

He said that the findings of the “remote monitoring” will be made public in the near future.


India responds

In a strong reaction to UNHRC chief’s statement, India said it was surprised that “individual incidents are being extrapolated” to suggest a broader societal situation.

“We are perplexed at some of the observations made by the high commissioner in his oral update,” India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Rajeev K. Chander said.

Rejecting the observations made by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Chander said, “Tendentious judgements made on the basis of selective and even inaccurate reports do not further the understanding of human rights in any society.”

Regarding the Rohingya deportation, the ambassador stated, “Like many other nations, India is concerned about illegal migrants, in particular, with the possibility that they could pose security challenges. Enforcing the laws should not be mistaken for lack of compassion.”

On the UNRC’s human rights concerns in Kashmir, Chander said, “It is a matter of regret that the central role of terrorism is once again being overlooked.”

“Assessments of human rights should not be a matter of political convenience,” he said.

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