How is it that a country that prides itself on its democratic institutions has not allowed a single trial in nearly 28 years of armed forces personnel accused of serious violations, including killings, rape, torture and enforced disappearances?
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has said that the reaction of the Indian authorities to the first-ever report published by UNHRC about human rights violations in both Jammu Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir was “disappointing but also puzzling”.
“Many of the facts presented in the report are from government documents and sources. For example, the numbers of civilians killed or injured since July 2016 come from the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir as reported to the Legislative Assembly. Indeed, many of the issues the report details have previously been raised by Indian and international human rights experts, as well as government-appointed commissions and Indian civil society organisations,” Zeid said in his opinion piece published by The Indian Express.
He also said that the major concern is the “culture of impunity for human rights violations that laws such as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act of 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act of 1978 have fostered”.
“How is it that a country that prides itself on its democratic institutions has not allowed a single trial in nearly 28 years of armed forces personnel accused of serious violations, including killings, rape, torture and enforced disappearances?” he said.
Reacting to the Indian allegation that the maiden report ignored the cross-border firing in the report, Zeid said, “This is far from the case, as the report addresses armed groups and the human rights abuses they have committed over the years, including killings, kidnappings and sexual violence. The report also clearly cites the inclusion of LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen or Jaish-e-Mohammed in the United Nations Security Council Sanctions List, and we have not minced words about what they have done and from where they have derived their support.”
“Our report is an attempt to break out of the political binaries on Kashmir and bring human rights issues in the region to the fore. Accountability for human rights abuses and violations cannot be indefinitely suspended while we wait for a political solution to Kashmir. If anything, adhering to human rights principles can help reduce tensions and prepare the grounds for a sustainable solution.”
Both India and Pakistan have denied unconditional access to the council since 2016 to carry out investigations in their respective regions.
“This cannot and should not stop us from talking about human rights concerns in Kashmir. It is my role as High Commissioner to speak up for victims. Our public reports seek to shine a light on abuses and violations, and ultimately to assist states and other stakeholders to identify and address human rights challenges — and so improve the protection of human rights of everyone,” he said.
He urged the Indian government to have the confidence to look at the human rights situation in Kashmir and understand that the violations committed there have led to the alienation of the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly the young people.
“The Indian government rejected the report as ‘fallacious, tendentious and motivated’. It is indeed motivated — motivated by the desire to contribute to the search for peace and justice in Kashmir, and I urge you to read it in that spirit,” he said.