The first-ever report issued by the United Nations on the situation in Kashmir has detailed alleged human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control.
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, according to a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Office. “It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering.”
Noting the continuing tensions in recent weeks, Al Hussein called on Indian security forces to exercise restraint and abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend.
“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 Al Hussein.
He further said that 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”.
The UN Human Rights Office was not given unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control, but it undertook remote monitoring to compile the report, according to the statement.
The focus of the report is the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani – to April 2018.
According to the report, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. The report cited civil society estimates that up to 145 civilians were killed by the security forces from mid-July 2016 till the end of March 2018, with up to 20 other civilians killed by armed groups in the same period.
The report also examines violations in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The report says restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” and in Gilgit-Baltistan have limited the ability to obtain information about the situation.
“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, adding that Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardise the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations”.
India calls it ‘fallacious and motivated’
The Ministry of External Affairs said the UN report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also described the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”. “We question the intent in bringing out such a report,” the ministry said, according to PTI.
The ministry said the report was “overtly prejudiced” and builds a “false narrative”. “The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the MEA. “The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression.”