The letter stated that ‘if a delay in response within 60 days is caused, it shall be made public’
New Delhi: Four UN Special Rapporteurs, have in a letter drafted to the Indian government addressed concerns about the plight of human rights conditions in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
The letter addresses concerns of human rights violations following severe restrictions imposed post the abrogation of its semi-autonomous status and the communication blockade aftermath that followed on August 5 2019, in particular citing ‘arbitrary detentions, violations to the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, right to health and rights of persons belonging to minorities.’
The letter, published today on OHCHR’s communication reporting website, was sent to the government on May 4, 2020.
In its conclusionary paragraph, it states that if a delay in response within 60 days of the it being sent is caused, the said communication or the government’s revert shall be made public; and subsequently made available to the report presented by the Human Rights Council.
Drafted in their capacities as UN Special Rapporteurs of inhumane punishment, arbitrary executions, minority issues and freedom of religious beliefs, the said communication has been penned by Nilz Melzar, Alges Callamard, Fernand De Varennas, Ahmad Shaheed.
Stating that they are ‘still deeply concerned about the ongoing human rights violations’, the letter began by expressing that ‘no reply has been received’ from the government with regards to prior letters being penned about the issues pertaining to ‘freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly, concern on the reported mass crackdown targeting those expressing dissent against the same decision taken by the government,’ post the abrogation of Jammu & Kashmir semi-autonomous status on August 05 last year.
According to the letter, the information received by them stated that, ‘between January and July 2019, a number of Kashmiri Muslims, persons belonging to minorities in India, were reportedly summoned to report to various army camps where they were subjected to corporal punishment by security officials.’
Citing that they do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, they expressed ‘grave concern at the alleged excessive use of force, torture and other forms of ill-treatment reportedly committed during the arrest and detention, and death in custody of the above mentioned persons’.
The letter also bore that they are ‘further concerned’ that these individuals reportedly belong to minorities residing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir who ‘appear to be targeted based on their ethnicity and/or religious identities’.
“Should these allegations be confirmed, they would constitute violations of articles 2, 6, 7, 9, 21, 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) ratified by the State of India on April 10, 1979, as well as articles 2 and 16 of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which codify the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They would also contravene the protections provided for by the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted by General Assembly resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992, specifically articles 2, 7, and 10, as well as the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, in particular articles 2, 3 and 4.” the letter read.
Expressing concerns that the alleged arbitrary arrests, ‘torture and other ill-treatment’ which, in at least 4 cases reportedly led to the death of the victim, ‘appears to be inflicted against persons belonging to minorities targeted because of their ethnic and religious identities’, who ‘had been exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly’.
They also noted that among the instances cited, 3 minors were reportedly subjected to severe beatings. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has determined that “arresting or detaining an individual as punishment for legitimate exercise of the rights guaranteed by the Covenant constitutes a violation of article 9” (General Ccomment 35, para 17). Furthermore, Resolution 8/8 of the Human Rights Council reminded Governments that corporal punishment, including of children, can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or even to torture.
Further urging the government to prompt impartial investigations for the ‘arbitrary killings, torture, and ill-treatment and to prosecute suspected perpetrators’, the letter mentioned inter alia under articles 6 and of the ICCPR, and articles 7 and 12 of the CAT.
Towards its conclusion, the letter demanded information and inquiry into the following:
- Factual and legal grounds for the arrest and detention of the persons mentioned identifying as ethnicity and/or religious minorities and an explanation as to how these measures are compatible with international standards related to the right to liberty and security of the person, enshrined in article 9 of the ICCPR, and the prohibition of discrimination based on religion contained 1n article 26 of this treaty.
- Steps taken by the Indian government to protect rights of members of ‘these minorities to freely and peacefully exercise their rights, including the freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly’.
- Investigation and judicial or other inquiries which may have been carried out, or which are foreseen, into the allegations of ‘torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment alleged to have been inflicted upon the persons whose cases are described above, whether in military or police custody’.
The letter demanded the justification invoked by the police or the military ‘to inflict corporal punishment to the victims’.
- The results of any investigation and judicial or other inquiries which may have been carried out, or which are foreseen, into the death in police or military custody of the 4 individuals mentioned. Even asked to provide detailed descriptions, including copies of forensic reports, of the causes and circumstances that have led to the death of the detainees.
- The steps taken by judicial authorities to investigate and prosecute any act of ‘torture and ill-treatment, of arbitrary arrest and detention’, as well as any death that has occurred in police or military custody, particularly against ‘persons belonging to religious or ethnic minorities’.
It even demanded explanation if no such investigation were conducted, and how this is compatible with the international human rights obligations of India, especially the ICCPR and the CAT.
- Detailed information on the policies, laws, procedures and institutional arrangements in place ensuring that ‘people belonging to ethnic linguistic, religious or other minorities in India are treated equally like other citizens and are not subjected to discriminatory measures or treatment because of their identity.’
The letter urged that all necessary interim measures be taken to ‘halt the alleged violations’ and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person(s) responsible for the alleged violations.
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