UN calls for probe into human rights violations in Kashmir
Geneva/New Delhi, June 14 : Indian and Pakistani security forces used "excessive" force in both sides of Jammu and Kashmir, killing and wounding civilians since 2016, a UN body said on Thursday, in a first-ever report calling for an international investigation into alleged violations in the disputed territory. India outright rejected as "fallacious, tendentious and motivated" the report as far as it relates to Jammu and Kashmir.
"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," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
"This is why any resolution of the political situation in Jammu and 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," Zeid said.
The UN report focussed mainly on alleged serious violations committed in Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. Activists estimated that up to 145 civilians were killed by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups in the same period, it said.
India reacted strongly to the report with External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar saying: "India rejects the report. It is fallacious, tendentious and motivated. We question the intent in bringing out such a report.
Calling it "a selective compilation of largely unverified information", Kumar said the report "is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative".
Stating that terrorism is the most egregious violation of human rights, the spokesperson said that yet the authors have conveniently ignored the pattern of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and territories under its illegal control.
"Cross-border terror and incitement is aimed at suppressing the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, disrupting its political and social fabric and undermining India's integrity," he stated.
"It is disturbing that those behind this report have chosen to describe internationally designated and UN-proscribed terrorist entities as 'armed groups' and terrorists as 'leaders'. This undermines the UN-led consensus on zero tolerance to terrorism."
Stating that the report violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Kumar, in his response, said that 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," he said.
"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'."
Kumar also said that the motivated report deliberately ignores that fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution to every Indian citizen, including in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, are protected also by an independent judiciary, human rights commissions, free and vibrant media and an active civil society.
He said India's protest and views in the matter have been conveyed unequivocally to the OHCHR.
"We are deeply concerned that individual prejudices are being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution," he said.
"Such malicious reports cannot undermine the will of the people and the government of India to take all measures necessary to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from cross-border terrorism," he added.
The UN report also talked about the "most dangerous weapons" used against protesters in 2016 and which is still being employed by security forces -- the pellet-firing shot gun.
It also criticised the enforcement of special laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, and Public Safety Act, PSA, saying armed forces were acting with impunity. Calling for repeal of AFSPA, the report said in nearly 28 years of AFSPA in force, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the Central government.
The UN rights chief called on Indian security forces "to exercise maximum restraint and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests".
As for Pakistan, the report cited experts' belief that its military continued to support the operations of armed groups across the Line of Control. It says violations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are of a more "structural" nature.
It urged Pakistan to end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent.
Among the issues highlighted in the report is the constitutional relationship of the two distinct territories of "Azad Kashmir" and Gilgit-Baltistan with Pakistan. The "Azad 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.