World body releases first-ever rights report on Kashmir

Geneva, June 14 (KMS): The United Nations in its first-ever human rights report on Jammu and Kashmir called for an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who, it said, for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.

The report released by the United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva on Thursday mainly focuses on the human rights situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. The 49-page report by the UN on the human rights situation in Kashmir highlights a situation of chronic impunity for human rights violations committed by the security forces.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, “The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-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.”

“This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties, and provide redress for victims,” he said.

“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,” said Zeid.

He called on the Indian forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend. “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,” Zeid said.

The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed Burhan Muzaffar Wani- 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 security forces between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018…,” it said.

It said one of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in 2016 – and which is still being employed by security forces – was the pellet-firing shotgun. “According to official figures, 17 people were killed by shotgun pellets between July 2016 and August 2017, and 6,221 people were injured by the metal pellets between 2016 and March 2017. Civil society organizations believe that many of them have been partially or completely blinded,” the report said.

“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (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.” The AFSPA prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian Government grants prior permission to prosecute, it noted.

“This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report says.

There is also almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances, with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region, it said.

Citing Kunan-Poshpora mass rape it said chronic impunity for sexual violence also remains a key concern in Kashmir. “An emblematic case is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape 27 years ago when, according to survivors, soldiers gang-raped 23 women. Attempts to seek justice have been denied and blocked over the years at different levels,” the report says.


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