UK rights body welcomes UN report on kashmir, supports its call for comprehensive investigation
The 49-page report details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, i.e. in Indian-Administered Kashmir as well as Pakistan-Administered Kashmir and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces. In the words of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: ‘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... 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’.
The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. It notes that the Indian security forces used excessive force to control large and unprecedented demonstrations, leading to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries - an estimated 145 civilians were killed by security forces and 20 civilians killed by armed groups in this period.
It continues ‘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.’
South Asia Solidarity Group welcomes the report's comments on the almost total impunity for human rights violations by security forces and the lack of access to justice in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It notes that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (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 findings of the report confirm those of the 2016 citizens’ fact finding team to Kashmir of 25 leading activists and journalists from across India, and those of Kashmir based human rights organisations.
CPI(ML) Politburo member Kavita Krishnan who was a member of the 2016 citizens’ fact-finding team to Kashmir and signatory of its report Why Are People Protesting in Kashmir? notes: ‘the UN report confirms and highlights the findings of our team as well as reports from Kashmir based human rights organisations. In 2016, many of us, too, had called for India to grant access to a UN Fact-finding mission in Kashmir’.
The report also examines a range of human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. Azad Jammu and Kashmir has effectively been controlled by Pakistan throughout its entire history. Pakistan’s federal authorities also have full control over all government operations in Gilgit-Baltistan, and federal intelligence agencies are reportedly deployed across both regions.
The report also notes with concern the impact of Pakistani counter-terrorism operations on human rights. The “very broad definition of terrorism laid down in the Anti-Terrorism Act.” has led, as noted by a respected national NGO, to hundreds of people being imprisoned under the Act in Gilgit-Baltistan, and the targeting of locals who were raising issues related to people’s human rights.
In this respect the report also confirms the findings of earlier reports into the human rights situation in Pakistan administered Kashmir - a Human Rights Watch investigation in 2006 had found widespread torture, tight controls of freedom of expression and dominance of the Pakistani army in governing the area.
The UN report also details abuses by armed groups, including killings of civilians, off-duty police personnel and army personnel on leave, as well as threats and violence against political leaders, noting that ‘Despite the Government of Pakistan’s assertions of denial of any support to these groups, experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control in Indian-Administered Kashmir.’
Recommendations of the report:
South Asia Solidarity fully endorses the recommendations of the report, particularly that:
- the UN Human Rights Council consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir
- India and Pakistan fully respect their international human rights law obligations in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir respectively.
- India should urgently repeal the AFSPA; establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings since July 2016 and all abuses committed by armed groups; and provide reparations and rehabilitation to all injured individuals and to the families of those killed in the context of security operations. Similarly, the PSA should be amended to ensure its compliance with international human rights law, and all those held under administrative detention should either be charged or immediately released.
- Pakistan should end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent. The sections of the AJK interim constitution that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association should be amended. Any political activists, journalists and others convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions should be immediately released. The constitutions of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan should also be amended to end the criminalization of Ahmadiyya Muslims.
South Asia Solidarity Group is an anti-imperialist, anti-racist organization based in Britain. They are committed to supporting, publicising, and building solidarity with people’s struggles for justice and democracy and against exploitation, imperialism and war in the countries of South Asia. For more information please visit:www.southasiasolidarity.org