UN: Blockade in Kashmir a 'collective punishment'

The UN on Thursday described communication blockade in Indian administered a form of a "collective punishment" and urged Indian authorities to restore telephone and internet links.

In a joint statement issued in Geneva, five UN special rapporteurs asked New Delhi to provide access to the information and end a ban on peaceful protests, imposed in the region earlier this month.

The written statement said the experts expressed concern that the measures, imposed after the Indian parliament revoked the special status of , would exacerbate tensions in the region.

There is a near total communications blackout in the region since the evening of Aug. 4. Not only the internet or mobile phone has been jammed, but the cable and Kashmiri television channels have also been put off the air.

"The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality," said the experts.

"The blackout is a form of a of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence," they added.

The UN officials also described the restrictions imposed by Indian authorities as "intrinsically disproportionate".

Expressing concern at the reports that security forces were conducting night raids on private homes leading to the arrests of young people, the UN experts said the allegations against them must be investigated.

"Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations. The allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, and, if confirmed, those responsible must be held accountable," the statement said.

The statement also highlighted the excessive use of force against protesters, including the live ammunition.

" has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests. This means that the use of deadly force is a measure permissible only as last resort and to protect life."

Those who have signed the statement included David Kaye (U.S.), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

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