Human Rights

Accountability for rights abuse cannot be suspended while waiting for a political solution to Kashmir, says UNHRC chief

In an article published in The Indian Express, UN Human Rights Council High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that the first UN report on the human rights violations in Kashmir sought to ‘highlight the serious nature of human rights concerns on both sides of the border’.

The seven decades of this dispute have wrought a heavy toll on all Kashmiris, who have been rendered voiceless amid the political polarisation, he wrote, stating that the report was an attempt to bring human rights as the central topic of discussion.

“Accountability for human rights abuses and violations cannot be indefinitely suspended while we wait for a political solution to Kashmir. If anything, adhering to human rights principles can help reduce tensions and prepare the grounds for a sustainable solution,” he said.

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He also added that being barred from unconditional access to Indian administered Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir should not ‘stop us from talking about human rights concerns in Kashmir’.

“It is my role as High Commissioner to speak up for victims. Our public reports seek to shine a light on abuses and violations, and ultimately to assist states and other stakeholders to identify and address human rights challenges — and so improve the protection of human rights of everyone,” he stated in his article.

He said that on conclusion of remote monitoring of the situation, human rights protection and accountability was largely in deficit. “This is why I am calling on the UN Human Rights Council to consider setting up a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into all allegations of human rights violations and abuses in Kashmir,” he said.

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Zeid said that the reaction towards the report from Indian authorities was puzzling and disappointing, since most of the figures came from credible government source and data. “For example, the numbers of civilians killed or injured since July 2016 come from the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir as reported to the Legislative Assembly,” he stated.

He also said he was ‘deeply concerned about the culture of impunity for human rights violations that laws such as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act of 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act of 1978 have fostered’.

“How is it that a country that prides itself on its democratic institutions has not allowed a single trial in nearly 28 years of armed forces personnel accused of serious violations, including killings, rape, torture and enforced disappearances?” he said, adding that free and fair trials were the way for the victims seeking justice.

He urged the Indian government to understand the violations committed in the conflict stricken state led to alienation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, saying they had repeatedly asked for justice and an end to the abuse.

“The Indian government rejected our report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. It is indeed motivated — motivated by the desire to contribute to the search for peace and justice in Kashmir, and I urge you to read it in that spirit,” he said lastly.

Earlier, the UN had published a 49 page report on human rights abuses in Kashmir. The report stated that there was an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades had suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives. The report which focused on human rights situation in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir – details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, and highlighted a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by forces.

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