News 14.6.2018 10:16 am

UN to probe Kashmir human rights abuses

Indian Border Security Force soldiers shout anti Paksitan and pro India slogans during a wreath-laying ceremony at the BSF headquarters in Jammu on June 13, 2018.
Fresh cross border fire left four Indian border security force personnel dead on June 13 along the border dividing disputed Kashmir with the Pakistani province of Punjab, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / -

Indian Border Security Force soldiers shout anti Paksitan and pro India slogans during a wreath-laying ceremony at the BSF headquarters in Jammu on June 13, 2018. Fresh cross border fire left four Indian border security force personnel dead on June 13 along the border dividing disputed Kashmir with the Pakistani province of Punjab, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / -

This marks the first-ever UN report on alleged violations committed by both India and Pakistan in the disputed territory.

The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for a major investigation into abuses in Kashmir.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he would urge the Human Rights Council, which opens a new session next week, “to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir”.

A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises such as the conflict in Syria.

The report, which the UN said was the first-of-its-kind for Kashmir, highlights “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces”, the human rights office said in a press release.

The findings come after months of deadly clashes along the border that divides Kashmir into zones of Indian and Pakistani control.

The report said Zeid met with representatives of both governments following an upsurge of violence in July 2016, triggered by India’s killing of 22-year-old rebel commander Burhan Wani.

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officers carry the coffin of slain soldiers during a wreath-laying ceremony at the BSF headquarters in Jammu on June 13, 2018.
Fresh cross border fire left four Indian border security force personnel dead on June 13 along the border dividing disputed Kashmir with the Pakistani province of Punjab, officials said. / AFP PHOTO / –

Concerned by what the UN termed “large and unprecedented” protests after Wani’s death, Zeid asked for “unconditional access” to Kashmir, but neither government agreed.

His office then began remote monitoring of the region, ultimately producing a report covering alleged abuses between January 2016 and April of this year.

The report, which focuses mainly on Indian-administered Kashmir, accuses Indian troops of being responsible for an estimated 145 unlawful killings, far surpassing the 20 people estimated to have been killed by militant groups during that period.

“It is essential that 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,” Zeid was quoted as saying.

Kashmiri protestors and government forces clash after Friday prayers during the last Friday of Holy month of Ramadan in downtown Srinagar on June 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Tauseef MUSTAFA

Turning to territory under Pakistan’s control, the report identifies “a range of human rights abuses”, but notes they “are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature”.

The rights office also said that restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly made it difficult to obtain information about conditions in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

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 UN said.

Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and both New Delhi and Islamabad claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full.

India has about 500 000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

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