United Nations Human Rights Report on Kashmir: Response from India and Pakistan

What is the report?

United Nations has issued a report which mainly focused on the “situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. It is the period over which 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 stated, “impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.” It stated special laws like the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) did not allow the ordinary course of law, impedes accountability.

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a separate statement urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to “consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.” The UN, human rights chief, had first approached India and Pakistan for access to Kashmir in July 2016 after a rise in violent clashes following the killing of Burhan Wani. But India had refused the proposal. Pakistan had stated that it would be willing to allow access to a UNHRC delegation but only after India admitted human rights inspectors to its side of Kashmir.

The OHCHR report claimed that Indian security forces killed 145 civilians and 20 civilians were killed by “armed groups” from July 2016 to March 2018. It deplored the use of “pellet-firing shotgun” as “one of the most dangerous weapons used against protests in 2016”. Citing statistics of the Jammu and Kashmir government, the report noted that 17 people were killed and metal pellets injured 6221 over 2016 and 2017. The report specifically mentioned the use of a “human shield” by an Indian army major, noting that he was commended for this act by the army chief in May 2017. The report also called to end the “arbitrary bans” on newspapers in Kashmir and restrictions on access to internet and mobile telephone networks. The report also suggested that India should allow “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 the international community.” It also suggested that powers of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission should be increased to investigate all human rights violations and abuses in the state, including those allegedly committed by central security forces”.

The report also recommended investigation of “all cases of abuses committed by armed groups in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killings of minority Kashmiri Hindus since the late 1980s”. The UNHRC chief called on Indian security forces to exercise “maximum restraint” and abide by “international standards” on use of force to counter future protests on the recent rise in tensions in the valley. He stated, “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.”
Regarding the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the report said that human rights violations were of “a different caliber or magnitude and of a more structural nature.” The UNHRC study observed the residents of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan do not enjoy all the rights and protections available to those under the Pakistan constitution. It also stated that the anti-terrorism act had been used to “target locals who have been raising issues related to the “rights of the people” in Gilgit-Baltistan.”

Response from Pakistan

Pakistan hailed the UN report, especially noting the stipulation that the focus was the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. “It stipulates that its main focus is on the Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The contents, scale and the narrative of killings, maiming, abuse and impunity articulated in the report is a reaffirmation of what Pakistan has long highlighted for the international community,” it said. Islamabad also supported the proposal to establish a Commission of Inquiry for an international probe into human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Regarding the report on the situation in PoK, the Pakistan foreign ministry said, “References to human rights concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan should in no way be construed to create a false sense of equivalence with the gross and systematic human rights violations in IoK.”

Response from India

India rejected the report, terming it “fallacious, tendentious and motivated,” and lodged a strong protest with the United Nations. It said that the government is “deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution.” India claimed that the report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India as usual said that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and Pakistan has illegally and forcibly occupied its part through aggression.

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Rameez Raja Mir
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