UN rights chief calls for probe into Kashmir abuses
The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for forming an international inquiry committee to probe the ongoing human rights violations and abuses in Kashmir.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir. Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.
The first-ever UN human rights report on the human rights situation in Kashmir highlighted the need to deliver justice for all people of the region, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives with violations committed by armed forces.
"The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been center-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time.
"It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement about his office's 49-page long report.
"It is also why 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," he said.
- INDIA'S EXCESSIVE FORCE SLAMMED
Noting the continuing tensions in recent weeks, he said: "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."
Despite repeated requests to both India and Pakistan over the past two years, the UN Human Rights Office has not been given unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control, which splits control of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the report said.
The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir region from July 2016, when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian armed forces killed the leader of an armed group, to April 2018.
"Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries," the report said, citing civil society estimates that up to 145 civilians were killed by the Indian armed forces between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018; up to 20 other civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
The UN also urged "Pakistan to end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent".
The armed groups that have operated in Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980s have committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence, the report said.
- PAKISTAN'S DENIAL CRITICIZED
"Despite the government of Pakistan's denial of any support for these groups, the report notes that a number of experts have concluded that Pakistan's military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control," the report said.
Kashmiri leaders welcomed the report.
"It is a good and comprehensive report. The people of Kashmir thank the UN for its bold efforts and its support to the Right of Self Determination in Kashmir," top Kashmiri resistance leader and Hurriyat (M) Chairman Mirwaiz Umar told Anadolu Agency.
The Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and Association of Parents of Disappeared People also welcomed the report, saying it highlights the need for the international community, specifically the UN to intervene immediately.
Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs rejected the report, terming it |fallacious, tendentious, and motivated".
"It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative. The report violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," it said.
Pakistan welcomed the UN high commissioner's proposal to establish a committee to probe human rights violations in Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, but about concerns in Pakistani-controlled part, known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and in Gilgit-Baltistan region, the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman said: "That should in no way be construed to create a false sense of equivalence with the gross and systematic human rights violations" in Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.