UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 (APP): Pakistan has called on the United Nations to closely monitor the situation in the restive Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir where reprisals and attacks against human rights defenders were growing amid a harsh security clampdown.
“Acts of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN system undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN as a whole, including its human rights machinery,” Pakistani delegate Qasim Aziz Butt said during an Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor.
The dialogue took place in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian issues.
Butt, a second secretary in the Pakistan Mission to the UN, said the gravity and frequency of the reprisals had intensified. Thousands of Kashmiri youth, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and put into incommunicado detention.
Civil society organizations and international media had been denied access, as the fourteen-month digital and physical lockdown put the occupied territory into a communication and information blackout.
The Pakistani delegate referred to last month’s “cold-blooded murder” of lawyer Babar Qadri, a renowned Kashmiri Human Rights Defender, by unidentified men, saying he joined the long list of critical voices who have been systematically eliminated through extra-judicial killings in occupied Kashmir.
“Similarly,” he added, “activists like Khurram Pervez have been subjected to arbitrary travel bans and indefinite detention in relation to their cooperation with the United Nations.”
Major human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have continued to express concerns about these systematic reprisals against human rights defenders in India and occupied Kashmir, the committee was told.
“Instead of responding to these concerns,”, he said, “the Indian government has embarked upon a witch hunt against those who dare to report these crimes.”
Only last month Amnesty International ceased work in India citing constant harassment at the hands of the government authorities. In the words of the Executive Director of Amnesty International India, the government’s goal is to “stoke a climate of fear”, it was pointed out.
“Needless to say, such sweeping restrictions and ongoing curtailment of rights in IIOJK, including the right to free speech and expression and the right to peaceful assembly and association have a direct bearing on the safety of human rights defenders, and their ability to carry out their work effectively,” Butt added.