The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday expressed concern over the continued detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and called for the reversal of full communication blockade in the Union Territory.
“Incidents of military and police violence against civilians continued in [Jammu and Kashmir], including use of pellet guns, as well as incidents related to militancy,” Bachelet said during the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, according to The Wire. “Major legal changes – including to the Constitution and domicile rules – were generating deep anxiety.”
She was referring to the abrogation of special provisions granted to the erstwhile state under Article 370 on August 5, 2019. She further said that a new media policy issued by the Jammu and Kashmir administration has restricted the space of criticism. “...the space for political debate and public participation continues to be severely restricted, particularly since new media rules have prohibited vaguely defined ‘anti-national’ reporting,” Bachelet said.
On Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the high commissioner said that people had limited access to the internet, which has resulted in people finding it difficult to access education and other important services. She also expressed concern over restrictions to freedom of expression in the region.
Bachelet welcomed the restoration of internet services in parts of Kashmir but asked that the same should be applied to the rest of the Union Territory. Similarly, she said that while she welcomed the decision of the central government to release political and community leaders detained following the August 5 move, many remained “in arbitrary detention, with many habeas corpus petitions still pending”.
Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti – were put under house arrest before the August 5, 2019, decision.
Omar Abdullah was released seven months later on March 24 after the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked his detention order under the Public Safety Act. Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was formally released on July 31. However, Mehbooba Mufti remains in detention.
The External Affairs Ministry has not commented on Bachelet’s mention of Jammu and Kashmir so far.
The High Commissioner also spoke about human rights violations in various parts of the world, including Mynamar, Saudi Arabia, China, the United States, Brazil and other countries. She said that accountability could prevent such violations and that it was linked to “transitional justice”.