‘We see same violations (civilian killings) happening because of Govt’s failure to investigate properly’
Srinagar: Reacting to the recent developments, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said that shutting down of Kashmir Press Club and Human Rights Commission in Jammu and Kashmir is a disturbing development.
In an interview with Article 14, Lawlor said that the closure will have serious impacts on HRDs seeking protection and redress for human rights violations domestically.
“However it does not, and will not, stop information on violations against HRDs from reaching my office. HRDs learn to adapt even in the face of great adversity, and they will find ways to continue their vital work with the UN, and, after sustained collective efforts, realise their hopes for a better future,” the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders was quoted as saying.
Asked if the United Nations has approached the Government of India or raised any concern with them as earlier she had called for an “immediate release” of a prominent Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez arrested by the National Investigation Agency of India in November, Lawlor said that she has not sent an official letter to the government of India, however, she will continue to engage on the case and publicly call for his release.
Parvez was arrested on 22 November 2021 on charges related to conspiracy and militancy under Indian counter-terrorism legislation — the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — and is presently lodged at the Rohini Jail Complex.
The UN Special Rapporteurs had earlier termed the jail one of the three most overcrowded and unsanitary prisons in the country, where there is a clear and immediate risk to his health and safety, in particular from COVID.
“And when any government does not respond to a communication, I will publicly call them out for it. And at the beginning of every year, a report is produced that looks at government responses to communications in the previous year,” she said during the interview.
She added, “The OHCHR makes communications confidential for 60 days, to give the government time to respond to the allegations. They should respect this accommodation and engage in dialogue, so we can work together to prevent the erosion of human rights”.
The report says that ever since the Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of special status and the erstwhile state was divided into two union territories- JK and Ladakh, there has been “gradual erosion in free speech and democracy”. As in 2021, it said, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had issued five joint communiqués to the government of India on UAPA, freedom of expression and arbitrary administrative changes.
Maylor said, “HRDs from minority groups are often at more risk of retaliation for their human rights work. They can be targeted for their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other characteristic and as part of my mandate, I prioritise those HRDs who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations”.
Commenting on the civilian killings which were reported in Jammu and Kashmir in last many years, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders said that it is the government’s responsibility to conduct a full, impartial investigation into the incidents with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account. “One of the main reasons why we see the same violations happening, again and again, is because of government failure to properly investigate,” Lawlor was quoted further saying.