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UN High Commissioner’s Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir

by Nazir Tabassum

The full title of this report is: Report on the situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

This report was issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 14, 2018. The same day Mr Shujaat Bukhari, editor-in-chief of the English daily the Rising Kashmir, founded in 2008, was murdered by unknown assailants in Press Colony of Srinagar as he stepped out of his car. He was the thirteenth journalist killed so far during a conflict going on between India and Pakistan since 1989 to gain full control over the territory. Mr Bukhari’s brother was a cabinet member of the coalition government of PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti and BJP. This coalition also collapsed followed by this fateful assassination as a result of which Governor’s Raj is now imposed in the Indian-Administered J & K.

The crux of this report can be seen in the executive summary of this report covered in 22 points. All of these cannot be reproduced here for the paucity of space. However, the most important ones could be brought forward. It begins with the killing of Burhan Wani, a 22-year old leader of the Hizbul Mujahidin, an armed group, on 8 July 2016 in an encounter with the Indian Security forces. It then describes what happened in the aftermath of this killing.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights then narrates the refusal of both the governments of India and Pakistan to provide unconditional access to the two parts under their respective control so that the magnitude of the rights violations could be assessed. As a result, without unconditional access to both parts of the state across the Line of Control, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights undertook remote monitoring of the human rights situation in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir.

The report expressly states that the demonstrations the ensued the July 2016 killing of Burhan Wani was met heavy by the Indian security forces. It consisted of killings by the Indian security forces ranging between 130 to 145 between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018. During the same period 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups.

The report also states that a variety of armed groups are operating since 1980s in the Indian state of J & K and committing human rights violations most of which are documented. Nearly a dozen armed groups that operated in 1990s are now reduced to a half, the experts believe that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the LoC into Indian-Administered Kashmir. Pakistan continues to deny.

The report states that impunity of human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the Indian state of J & K. It says that special laws in force in the state, such as 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 jeopardise the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.

The main focus of this report in on the situation of human rights in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018, nonetheless, it also examines the situation in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir within this period. However, the human rights violations in this area of different nature or magnitude; their nature is more structural.

The report elaborates that Pakistan’s Prime Minister, the federal minister of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan and the federal civil service have full control over all government operations in both Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. According to an international NGO, federal intelligence agencies are deployed across the two regions and have “considerable powers over local elected representatives and officials”.

Moreover, the report gives importance to the fact that the interim constitution of AJK has placed several restrictions on any one criticising AJK’s accession to Pakistan, in contravention to international standards on the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association.

The report highlights the abuse of powers by dint of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 in Gilgit-Baltistan that was being used to target locals who have been raising issues related to the “rights of people”.

The report also points out a national NGO that was informed about Gilgit-Baltistan authorities evicting forcibly the locals in Maqpoon Das area, while the Chief Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan allocated the same land to state authorities for China Pakistan Economic Corridor. The displaced claimed they had not received compensation or relocation from the authorities. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has received information that indigenous people in Gilgit-Baltistan have complained of not being properly informed or consulted on decisions affecting them and their lively hoods.

The report also focuses on the Interim Constitution of AJK that incorporates the definition of a Muslim as stated in the Constitution of Pakistan. According to this definition, members of Ahmadiyya community are declared non-Muslims which provides basis for institution discrimination against them. Blasphemy provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan are also incorporated in the Interim Constitution of AJK and operative in Gilgit-Baltistan too.

The report vehemently criticises the military courts and tribunals in Indian-Administered Kashmir that impede access to justice. It states: “In February 2018, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs informed the Parliament that since 1990 the Jammu and Kashmir government had sought the sanction of the central government for prosecution of members of the security forces in 50 cases. The central government refused to sanction prosecution in 47 cases, while decisions remained pending in 3 cases as of April 2018”.

The report elaborates the denial of justice to the much-wronged people of Indian J & K even by the Indian Supreme Court. It states: “In April 2013, the Supreme Court granted security forces the option to try their own personnel, and the Border Security Force exercised this option in a few instances to the benefit of its personnel. Thus, in June 2017, media reports indicated that the General Security Forces Court had acquitted two members of the Border Security Force accused of extrajudicial execution of 16-years old Zahid Farooq Sheikh on 5 February 2010.

The report highlights excessive use of force to stop protests by stone-pelting agitators and the use of pallet guns that have permanently blinded scores of young people and graciously injured many more.

The report brings to light the arbitrary arrests and detentions including of children in Indian J & K. It also elaborated the third-degree torture of the arrested ones as well as their forced disappearances.

The report is comprehensive by all means and brings to light the treatment meted out to the people of both sides of J & K including Gilgit-Baltistan.



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