The United Nations Human Rights Commission has sought an “establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir” and has asked the governments of India and Pakistan to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”.
India, however, rejected the report calling it ” fallacious, tendentious and motivated.” Adding that the report is a “selective compilation of largely unverified statements,” the Ministry said that the report “violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and “questioned the intent” behind it.
The 49-page report titled “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan” was submitted by the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights before UN’s Human Rights council today.
“The focus of the report is on the situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018 over which period allegations of widespread and serious human rights violations were received, notably excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties,’’ the report says. The report also talks about human rights violations in Pakistani Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and asks Islamabad to “fully respect international human rights law obligations”.
“Shortly after the outbreak of violence (in July 2016), the High Commissioner for Human Rights met with the representatives of the Governments of Pakistan and India who had differing narratives about the ongoing events and the general situation in Kashmir. From July 2016, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has on numerous occasions requested the Governments of India and Pakistan that his Office be given unconditional access to Kashmir to assess the human rights situation. India rejected this request, while Pakistan offered access should the Office obtain access to Indian-Administered Kashmir,’’ the report says. “Without unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has undertaken remote monitoring of the human rights situation. This first report on the situation of human rights in both Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir is based on such monitoring”.
Here are the findings of this UNHRC report:
*“In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries”.
*”One of most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets”.
*”In the same context, since the late 1980s, a variety of armed groups has been actively operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and there has been documented evidence of these groups committing a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence. The landscape of armed intervention by groups operating in Indian-Administered Kashmir has shifted over the years. In the 1990s, around a dozen significant armed groups were operating in the region; currently, less than half that number remain active. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s assertions of denial of any support to these groups, experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control in Indian-Administered Kashmir”.
* “Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Special laws in force in the state, such
as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA), have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations”.
*“Over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA between March 2016 and August 2017. Human rights groups had warned Jammu and Kashmir authorities that minors were being arrested under the PSA in 2016 and 2017”.
*”During the 2016 unrest, there were numerous reports of attacks on, and obstruction of, basic medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in Kashmir. ……days-long curfews and communications blockades also had a major impact on people and their access to medical care in Kashmir”.
*”The Kashmir region experienced frequent communications blockades during the 2016 unrest as the state Government suspended mobile and internet services on multiple occasions. In 2016, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, targeting media and journalists”.
*”Widespread protests, long periods of curfew and frequent strikes in 2016 and 2017 had a cumulative impact on students and their right to education”.
*”Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region”.
*”Authorities have failed to independently investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence by security forces personnel”.
*“While the main focus of the report is on the situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018, the report examines the situation in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir within that timeframe. However, the human rights violations in this area are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature”.
*”Pakistan’s prime minister, the federal minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan and the federal civil service have full control over all government operations in both Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B). According to an international NGO, federal intelligence agencies are deployed across the two regions and have “considerable powers over local elected representatives and officials”. Given such a constitutional relationship with Pakistan, residents of AJK and G-B do not enjoy all the rights and protections available to those under the Pakistan Constitution”.
*”The interim constitution of AJK has placed several restrictions on anyone criticizing AJK’s accession to Pakistan, in contravention to international standards on the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association”.
*”A national NGO found that “hundreds of individuals” had been imprisoned under the Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 in G-B, and it was being used to target locals who have been raising issues related to the “rights of the people”.
*”A national NGO was informed that G-B authorities had forcibly evicted locals in Maqpoon Das area, while the Chief Secretary of G-B had allocated the same land to state authorities for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
*”Similar to the Constitution of Pakistan, AJK’s Interim Constitution also defines who may be considered to be a Muslim. This definition is used to declare members of the Ahmadiyya community as non-Muslims and is the basis of institutional discrimination against them”.
*”According to figures provided by the Governments of India and Pakistan, ceasefire violations have been increasing between 2016 and April 2018. Increasing civilian casualties and injuries and a large number of people being displaced appear to be the consequence.
21. OHCHR recognizes the complexity of the historical background and political issues that has led to the current situation in Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan. People on both sides of the Line of Control have been detrimentally impacted and suffer from limitations or denial of a range of human rights”.
*”There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir”.
Based on its findings, the UNHRC report has sought the “establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”. The UNHRC report has also made specific recommendations to New Delhi and Islamabad.
Key Recommendations to New Delhi:
*”Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990; and, in the meantime, immediately remove the requirement for prior central government permission to prosecute security forces personnel accused of human rights violations in civilian courts”
*”Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016, as well as obstruction of medical services during the 2016 unrest, arson attacks against schools and incidents of excessive use of force by security forces including serious injuries caused by the use of the pellet-firing shotguns”.
*”Investigate all deaths that have occurred in the context of security operations in Jammu and Kashmir following the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India”.
*”Investigate all cases of abuses committed by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killings of minority Kashmiri Hindus since the late 1980s”.
*”Provide reparations and rehabilitation to all individuals injured and the family of those killed in the context of security operations”.
*”Investigate and prosecute all cases of sexual violence allegedly perpetrated by state and non-state actors, and provide reparations to victims”.
*”Bring into compliance with international human rights standards all Indian laws and standard operating procedures relating to the use of force by law enforcement and security entities, particularly the use of firearms: immediately order the end of the use of pellet-firing shotguns in Jammu and Kashmir for the purpose of crowd control”.
*”Amend the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 to ensure its compliance with international human rights law”.
*”Release or, if appropriate, charge under applicable criminal offences all those held under administrative detention and ensure the full respect of standards of due process and fair trial guaranteed under International law”.
*”Treat any person below the age of 18 who is arrested in a manner consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
*”Investigate all blanket bans or restrictions on access to the Internet and mobile telephone networks that were imposed in 2016, and ensure that such restrictions are not imposed in the future”.
*”End restrictions on the movement of journalists and arbitrary bans of the publication of newspapers in Jammu and Kashmir”.
*”Ensure independent, impartial and credible investigations into all unmarked graves in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as directed by the State Human Rights Commission; if necessary, seek assistance from the Government of India and /or the international community.
*”Expand the competence of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission to investigate all human rights violations and abuses in the state, including those allegedly committed by central security forces”.
*”Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol, and introduce enabling domestic laws as recommended during India’s UPR in 2008, 2012 and 2017”.
*” Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”.
Key recommendations to Islamabad:
*“Fully respect international human rights law obligations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir”.
*”End the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and expressions of dissent, and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act to bring it in line with international human rights standards, including by incorporating human rights safeguards”.
*”Federal and local authorities should amend sections of the Interim Constitution of Azad Jammu Kashmir and other relevant legislation that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association”.
*”Immediately release from prison or house arrest any political activists, journalists and other civil society actors who have been convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions”.
*”Federal and local authorities should amend the constitutions of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to end the criminalization of the Ahmadiyya Muslims and to allow to them to freely and safely exercise their freedom of religion or belief”.
*”Abolish blasphemy provisions in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to facilitate the enjoyment of freedom of religion and belief by all people”.
*”Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”.