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UN renews call for commission of inquiry into HR abuses in Kashmir

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  • Post category:Asia / Crime / Politics
  • Post last modified:08/07/2019
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MANHATTAN: A report from the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights has renewed calls for an international probe into serious violations in the disputed Kashmir region, saying the number of civilian casualties from May 2018 to April 2019 may be the highest in over a decade.
The new report, published on Monday by the Geneva-based Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), also said no concrete steps had been taken to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier UN report, which focused mainly on serious violations in Indian occupied Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018.
The follow-up report said in the Indian-administered Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remained virtually
Pakistan welcomed the 2018 UN findings, while India rejected them.
It describes how tensions over Kashmir – which rose sharply after a deadly suicide bombing in February targeting Indian security forces in Pulwama — continued to have a severe impact on the human rights of civilians, including the right to life.
According to data gathered by local civil society, the report says, “around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over a decade. Last year also registered the highest number of conflict-related casualties since 2008 with 586 people killed, including 267 members of armed groups and 159 security forces personnel.”
The report notes that the Union Ministry for Home Affairs has published lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 terrorists and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to December 2, 2018.
Of the 160 civilian deaths reported by local organizations, 71 were allegedly killed by Indian security forces, 43 by alleged members of armed groups or by unidentified gunmen, and 29 reportedly by shelling and firing.
According to the Government of Pakistan, a further 35 civilians were killed and 135 injured on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control due to shelling and firing by Indian forces during 2018.
Two armed groups have been accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Indian occupied Kashmir, and armed groups were reportedly responsible for attacks on people affiliated or associated with political organizations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killing of at least six political party workers and a freedom leader.
In the lead up to local elections scheduled for October 2018, armed groups threatened people participating in the elections and warned of “dire consequences” if those running for election did not immediately withdraw their nominations.
Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of encounters between security forces and members of armed groups in Indian occupied Kashmir, it says, “There is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties. There is no information on the status of the five investigations launched into extrajudicial executions in 2016. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir did not establish any investigations into civilian killings in 2017. No prosecutions have been reported. It does not appear that Indian security forces have been asked to re-evaluate or change their crowd-control techniques or rules of engagement.”
Arbitrary detention and so-called “cordon and search operations” leading to a range of human rights violations, continue to be deeply problematic, as do the special legal regimes applying to Indian-occupied Kashmir.
“The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) remains a key obstacle to accountability,” the report says. “Section 7 of the AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Government of India grants a prior permission or ‘sanction’ to prosecute. In nearly three decades that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government. The Indian Army has also been resisting efforts to release details of trials conducted by military courts where soldiers were initially found guilty but later acquitted and released by a higher military tribunal.”
In addition, the report notes, “no security forces personnel accused of torture or other forms of degrading and inhuman treatment have been prosecuted in a civilian court since these allegations started emerging in the early 1990s.”
And despite international concerns at the alarming numbers of deaths and
life-altering injuries caused by the security forces’ regular use of shotguns as a means of crowd control – even though they are not deployed elsewhere in India – they continue to be employed, leading to further deaths and serious injuries.
The report describes how, among various other incidents, a 19-month-old girl was hit by metal shotgun pellets in her right eye on November 25, 2018. According to information from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where most people injured by shotgun pellets are treated, “a total of 1,253 people have been blinded by the metal pellets used by security forces from mid-2016 to end of 2018.”
Noting that no clear steps have been taken to address and implement the recommendations made in the previous report, published in June 2018, the OHCHR restates those recommendations along with additional ones. It also calls on the 47-member-state UN Human Rights Council to “consider… the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”


Sania Jamali

Sania Jamali, who studied Media in UAE, is associated with since its inception (2015) mostly reporting International Politics.