UN releases first-ever human rights report on Kashmir

Sunday, June 17, 2018

On Thursday, the United Nations (UN) released its first-ever report for Kashmir, highlighting several incidents of alleged human rights violations in the last two years in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistani-administered areas of Kashmir, namely Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denounced the 49-page report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling it "selective", "malicious" and "fallacious". The report mentions human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violations, administrative detention, violations on the right to health and education, lack of access to justice and arbitrary arrests and detention among others.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he would urge the UN Human Rights Council "to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violation in Kashmir". Hussein was not granted permission, by either India or Pakistan, to visit Kashmir for the report.

Per the report, Pakistan was asked to stop "misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent." In July 2016, Indian security forces killed the Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani, which led to protests in the Kashmir Valley. In response to the protests, Indian security forces fired metallic pellets, and their activities led to human rights violation, the UN report read. It also accused India of the unlawful killing of about 145 civilians since 2016. The report asked India to "fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law."

The MEA issued a statement which read: "India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report. It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative." Per the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir it "is and shall be an integral part of the Union of India" while Pakistan's constitution does not mention Azad Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan in its territories, but has a provision for relations with Pakistan subject to Jammu and Kashmir people's decision to acceede to Pakistan. The MEA added in their statement, "Cross-border terror and incitement are aimed at suppressing the will of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, disrupting its political and social fabric and undermining India's integrity".

Unlike India, the report was welcomed by Pakistan. In a press release, the Foreign Office said Pakistan "welcomes the proposal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Commission of Inquiry for [an] international investigation into human rights violations" in Indian-held Kashmir.

Directing towards Indian authorities, the report asked to "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".

"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. We have repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is mischievous, misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as 'Azad Jammu and Kashmir' and 'Gilgit-Baltistan'", India's External Affairs ministry said in their statement.

The report was welcomed by some activists and leaders in Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir human rights activist Khurram Parvez welcomed the UN report. Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq wrote on Twitter, "People of Kashmir thank the U.N., especially the bold efforts of its HR commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, for its support to the right of self-determination."

The Kashmir-conflict between India and Pakistan has led to two wars since their independence in 1947. Between 1990 and 2017, there have been about 69,820 militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir, and more than 41 thousand people were killed. In 2017, there were over 800 ceasefire violations along the heavily-militarised Line of Control in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.