UN experts call for urgent action on “alarming” human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir

TCN News

Geneva: As India marks one year of abrogation of Article 370, United Nations (UN) Human Rights Special Rapporteurs have called on the international community to take urgent action against the “alarming human rights situation in the Valley.”

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“Urgent action is needed,” said the experts, urging Indian human rights defenders to respond to the rising press gag and rights violation in the territory. It stated in its latest session that if India fails to take any “genuine and immediate steps to resolve the situation,” then the international community should step up.” The Special Rapporteurs have also demanded an investigation into the “historic and recent cases of human rights violations” so that any such future events can be prevented.

The statement has also noted that since the Indian Parliament revoked the constitutionally mandated status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August 2019, the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in “free fall,” highlighting that the conditions have become concerning “particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Elaborating on recent attacks on journalists and activists, the Special Rapporteurs have resonated that “many protestors are still in detention and Internet restrictions remain in place” although it has been almost a year since a dozen and more UN experts wrote to the Indian Government “to end the crackdown on freedom of expression.”

In its latest meet, UN experts have accused India of blocking access to information and peaceful protests, and of subsequently launching “arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of activists.”

“We have yet to receive any reply to three of the four letters,” the experts said. The UN Human Rights experts committee has detailed that it had written four letters seeking response to such violations, and more lately, of criminalization of journalists covering the situation and the detention under deteriorating health condition of a high profile human rights lawyer, but none of those received any fruitful consideration from the Indian government.

It further mentioned that the October 2019 closure of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, which had been one of the few ways victims of human rights violations could seek remedy, is “particularly concerning.” What is worse is “no information was provided to the public about what would happen to the ongoing cases the body had been investigating, including hundreds of suspected enforced disappearances dating from as far back as 1989.” Allegations regarding thousands of unmarked and some mass graves sites have also not yet been properly investigated. The UN experts reiterated that it has been decades that “families are still waiting in anguish and now there is a stream of new alleged rights violations.” In fact, reporting these cases have become even more difficult with no State Human Rights Commission and internet restrictions.

The experts’ committee stated that in 2011 India had extended an open invitation to Special Rapporteurs to visit, but currently has several requests pending. “We call on India to schedule pending visits as a matter of urgency, particularly of the experts dealing with torture and disappearances,” the UN session concluded.