In her first address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday praised the Supreme Court for decriminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults but urged India and Pakistan to take meaningful action on addressing issues highlighted in the UN report on human rights violations in Kashmir. This was part of a written statement by the new UNHRC chief.
The former Chilean president succeeded Zeid Raad al Hussain as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights this month. In her opening remarks at the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet said the people of Kashmir had the same rights to justice and dignity as people all over the world. “The people of Kashmir have exactly the same rights to justice and dignity as people all over the world and we urge authorities to respect them,” she said.
Bachelet also reiterated the UNHRC’s request for unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control. “The Office of the HRC continues to request permission to visit both sides of the LoC, and in the meantime, will continue its monitoring and reporting,” she said.
In his report to the UN Human Rights Council in June, Bachelet’s predecessor Zeid Hussain had sought an “establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir” and 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”.
However, India reacted sharply to the report, calling it “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”, and lodged a strong protest with the United Nations. “The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 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,” the Ministry of External Affairs had said.
The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called the Donald Trump administration’s now-scrapped policy of separation of migrant families “unconscionable” and urged Europe to create a dedicated search and rescue operation for migrants in the Mediterranean. Raising concerns about the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Bachelet called on the Council to create “an independent international mechanism to collect, consolidate, preserve and analyse evidence of the most serious international crimes, in order to expedite fair and independent trials in national and international courts”.
“I urge the Council to pass a resolution, and refer the matter to the General Assembly for its endorsement so that such a mechanism can be established,” AFP quoted her as saying. Such a panel has already been created for the Syrian conflict.
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