Guterres says UN Human Rights Council must take next steps to address Indian rights abuses in Kashmir

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UNITED NATIONS, Jun 14 (APP):UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Thursday’s held back his comments on the first-ever report from the world body’s human rights chief calling for an international probe into the ongoing atrocities in Indian occupied Kashmir until the Human Rights Council determines what needs to be done in that regard.
Asked whether the secretary-general supports the recommendation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, for an independent international investigation into the serious abuses being committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir, a UN spokesman told a news briefing in New York that the proposal had been made to the Geneva-based Council and it was up to the 47-member body to “determine whether any steps were needed.”
Spokesman Farhan Haq was closely questioned by Pakistani reporters on the damning report by a UN body that brought the grave situation prevailing in the Indian occupied Kashmir to the world’s attention, but he stuck to his line that the Human Rights Council must pronounce itself on it first.
On the broader Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan, the spokesman said that the UN chief has consistently called for the resolution of the decades-old problem through a bilateral dialogue.
The U.N. report focuses mainly on serious violations in Indian occupied Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. Activists estimate that up to 145 civilians were killed by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups in the same period, it said.
High Commissioner Zeid 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”.
“Alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region should be investigated,” he said in a statement.
A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the conflict in Syria.
According to the 49-page report, Indian security forces have used excessive force in Kashmir and killed and wounded numerous civilians since 2016.
“In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries,” the report said.
High Commissioner Zeid called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecutions of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir due to a 1990 law giving them what he called “virtual immunity”.
India, on its part, rejected the claims made in the report for obvious reasons.
“It is a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative,” the Indian External Affairs Ministry said in a statement..
“The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India,” it claimed. “Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression.”