Srinagar: Asserting that the Kashmir conflict is not frozen in time, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has said that the Indian forces operating in Kashmir should abide by the international law while dealing with crowd control operations
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this not a conflict frozen in time,” Hussein said in a three minute video message after releasing the report “Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and general human rights concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Baltistan”.
“It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold sufferings,” Hussein lamented.
The damning UN report has levelled serious charges of human rights abuse against the Indian state, calling for establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate the rights violation committed by the Indian forces in the region.
“So that is why I will be urging UN human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry,” Hussein said.
He also quoted the recent happenings in Srinagar and called the Indian forces to abide by international law before using force to control street crowds.
“Given that all we have learned, and the current serious tensions including those stemming from a series of recent incidents in Srinagar, I urge the Indian security forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend,” Hussein said.
At least two persons, both of young men in their early 20’s, were mowed down to death by the vehicle of government forces belonging to paramilitary CRPF and Kashmir police.
The incidents were followed by public anger on the streets in the shape of pro-freedom protests and stone pelting. The government responded by using tear gas canisters and firing pellets shots to disperse the mourners and protesters.
Few weeks ago, in Srinagar, the clashes between the pro-freedom protesters and police inside Jamia Masjid left over 60 persons injured. Among the injured, over dozen people were hit by pellets in their eyes.
In the same incident, a young college boy was hit by pellets fired by the police, in his eyes leaving him partially blinded.
“One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in Kashmir is the pellet firing shot gun. A number of people have been killed and thousands injured by shot gun pellets since July 2016. Many people have been partially or completely blinded,” Hussein urged.
He also urged the government forces to completely halt “their use of this inaccurate and deadly weapon during crowd control operations”
UN High Commissioner for Human rights also came heavily on AFSPA or Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which grants legal immunity to the forces operating the Kashmir region, even to the extent that they can kill the person on mere suspicion.
“One particular Indian law gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violations. The report found that in the nearly 28 years 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,” Hussein said.
The UN high commissioner said there is almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into alleged sites of mass graves.
According to the rights groups operating in the region, there are around over 8000 people subjected to enforced disappearances by the state. They have also discovered the 2000 unmarked mass graves dotting the Kashmir landscape.
“There is also chronic impunity for sexual violence in Kashmir both for incidents allegedly carried out by security forces and by armed groups. The reports points to evidence that the armed groups that have operated in Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980’s have, in addition to sexual violence, committed wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians,” Hussein said.
“Despite the government of Pakistan denial of any of support these groups, the report notes that a number of experts have concluded that Pakistans military continue to support these groups operations across the Line of Control”.