Kashmir Under the Siege: From Erosion of State Autonomy to War Crimes



Statement on the Situation in Kashmir by the Conflict Law Centre at RSIL -  Research Society of International Law | RSIL

by Zukhruf Amin    15 March 2023

Since 1991, Kashmir Solidarity Day has been observed in Pakistan to uphold Kashmir’s right to self-determination and call for an end to violence in the region. The day serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle of the people of Kashmir and the need for peace and stability in the region.

The freedom struggle of Kashmiris refers to the decades-long conflict and human rights violations faced by the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Over the years, the struggle has been responded with India’s excessive use of force; including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly. The situation has led to significant human suffering and has had a negative impact on the region’s peace. Despite efforts to find a peaceful solution, the situation in IIOJK remains tense and the struggle of the Kashmiris continue.

The Indian government unilaterally revoked the region’s special autonomous status and imposed a lockdown, including restrictions on communication, movement, and assembly. The siege was implemented to control protests and unrest, which had erupted after the decision to revoke autonomy. Since then, the situation in IIOJK has been deteriorating; by a heavy military presence, widespread human rights abuses, and restrictions on basic freedoms, including the freedom of expression, and access to information. The siege has also disrupted the region’s economy and caused widespread suffering, including difficulties in accessing healthcare, education, and other basic services. The inhumane treatment at the hands of the Indian security personnel has also led to increased tensions and violence, including clashes between security forces and innocent Kashmiris. The situation remains tense and continues to have a significant impact on the lives and rights of the people of Kashmir.

Human rights organizations have been highly critical of the Indian illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and the unprecedented violence that have taken place in the region. They have consistently raised alarm about the serious human rights situation in IIOJK. They have called for action to address the abuses and improve the situation for the local population. In 2019, Secretary General of Amnesty International Kumi Naidoo highlighted that “the actions of the Indian government have thrown ordinary people’s lives into turmoil, subjecting them to unnecessary pain and distress on top of the years of human rights violations they have already endured. The people of Jammu and Kashmir should not be treated as pawns in a political crisis, and the international community must come together to call for their human rights to be respected.” Various human rights organizations have documented numerous violations of civil and political rights, including restrictions on freedom of expression, arbitrary detentions, assembly, and extrajudicial killings.

According to Human Right Watch Report 2023, the Indian authorities has intensified the use of torture, and other forms of inhumane treatment by security forces in the region. Amnesty International have also documented instances use of force and human rights violation, including cases of torture and crimes against humanity as part of systematic targeting of civilians, in IIOJK e.g., the use of pellet guns, extra-judicial killings in staged cordon-and-search operations and illegal demographic changes in the Muslim majority region. It is pertinent to mention here that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) under its Article 7 states “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Moreover, Amnesty International recently reported instances of demolition of homes in Jammu and Kashmir. It condemned and raised concerns over the demolition cases calling them a gross human rights violation. Article 25 of the Hague Regulations 1907 prohibits attacking buildings which are undefended and Article 46 states that private property is to be respected and cannot be confiscated. These demolitions are also a clear violation of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which India is a state party. Under the Covenant, forced evictions are prohibited.

Since these abuses constitute war crimes, they should be dealt with under the international humanitarian law. These organizations have repeatedly called for an independent and impartial investigation into these violations and has called the Indian government to act in accordance with international human rights law. They have also called on the Indian government to end the siege in Kashmir, lift restrictions on basic freedoms, and hold those responsible for human rights abuses accountable. However, the Indian nationalist government has failed in addressing the human rights situation in IIOJK and providing justice and support for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris. Pakistan has been actively highlighting India’s human rights abuses in IIOJK and raising awareness about the issue both domestically and internationally. It has sought to draw attention to the human rights abuses taking place in the Muslim majority region, including restrictions on basic human rights, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, as well as the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by Indian security personnel. Pakistan calls for an end to the siege in Kashmir, lifting of restrictions on basic freedoms, independent investigation into human rights violations in the region, and the protection of the rights of the Kashmiris. Additionally, the Pakistani government has used its diplomatic channels to raise the issue with other countries in order to mobilize international support for the Kashmiri cause. Its efforts have contributed to increased attention to the situation in IIOJK for the sake of addressing the human rights abuses and protection of the rights of the Kashmiri people.

The article appeared in the Strafasia on 15th February 2023