GENEVA March 28 (APP): Pakistan has urged the UN Human Rights Council to step up efforts to get access for independent observers into Illegally-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) to conduct an impartial investigation into reports of multiple violations of human rights in the disputed territory.
“Failure to hold India accountable for human rights abuses in IIOJ&K will erode the credibility of this Council, its members, and the global human rights agenda,” Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, said in the 47-member body’s general debate.
At the outset, the Pakistani envoy thanked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, for voicing concern over the rights situation in occupied Kashmir which, he said, was highlighted by numerous reports by global media, independent NGOs and UN human rights machinery.
Just last week, he said the ‘UN Mandate Holders’ (independent rights experts) warned about continuing demographic changes in IIOJ&K on religious and ethnic basis, as over 3 million illegal citizenship certificates have been issued to non-Kashmiris.
Earlier this week, Ambassador Hashmi pointed out, another group of UN experts termed attacks by Indian forces against Kashmiri human right defenders and journalists as a “pattern of silencing independent reporting through the threat of criminal sanction”.
Last year, he added, the UN Experts had characterized the grim human rights situation in IIOJ&K as “in a free fall” and called on the international community to “step up”.
“India continues to use torture and brute force, including pellet guns and inflict collective punishments through house demolitions as well as cordon-and-search operations in IIOJ&K.”
Over a thousand Kashmiri civilians are illegally imprisoned since August 2019, the Pakistani envoy said, adding that hundreds of habeas corpus petitions were pending before Indian courts.
Armed with draconian laws, facilitated by a pliant judiciary acting as a veritable arm of occupation and oppression, he said Indian forces continued to act with absolute impunity.
Pointing out that IIOJ&K has no civilian government since 2016, Ambassador Hashmi said that even the thin veneer of autonomy and rule of law now stood effaced.
“Indian military and the deep state rule the occupied territory with a ‘license to kill’ any Kashmiri daring dissent.
“Such gross, systematic and continuing violations meet all the elements of objective criteria for a human rights situation warranting the Council’s attention and triggering its ‘prevention mandate'”, he said of the procedure to push for access for independent observers, accountability of perpetrators, and establishment of a commission of inquiry.
“Countries endorsing objective criteria and advocating prevention mandate cannot remain silent on Kashmir because doing so will further embolden India to intensify its state-directed repression against Kashmiri civilians,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“Continued silence will also discredit the lofty human rights principles that countries claim to uphold”.
United Nations Human Rights commissioner Michele Bachelet said they were continuing to monitor the situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir. She said restrictions on communications and clampdowns on civil society activists were “a matter of concern”.
She said that despite restoration of the 4G access for the first time since August 2019 in the occupied Kashmir, the “communications blockade has seriously hampered civic participation, as well as business, livelihoods, education, and access to health-care and medical information”.
“Raids against human rights defenders in October and November exemplify the continued restrictions on civil society, and resulting impact on the rights of the people of Kashmir to impart and receive information, and to engage in free, open debate on Government policies affecting them,” Michele Bachelet said.