UN reviews human rights in India: Excessive use of force in Kashmir, violence against minorities among key issues

The UN has flagged a number of issues, including excessive use of force in Jammu and Kashmir, caste-based violence and violence against minorities and criminalisation of same-sex relations, to be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Thursday in the context of India’s periodic review of its human rights record.

Farooq Ahmad Dar who was tied to a jeep by Indian forces in Kashmir. Image courtesy: Suhail Bhat

Farooq Ahmad Dar who was tied to a jeep by Indian forces in Kashmir. Image courtesy: Suhail Bhat

The UN’s report to the HRC is a compilation of reviews of treaty bodies and independent human rights experts who have been mandated by the HRC to monitor thematic (like "freedom of expression") issues or country situations.

The report mentions the Special Rapporteur on executions' recommendation that India should repeal or at least radically amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act “with the aim of ensuring that the legislation regarding the use of force by the armed forces provided for the respect of the principles of proportionality and necessity in all instances, as stipulated under international law”. He also indicated "that it should remove all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces".

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, has also indicated that India should "swiftly enact" the Prevention of Torture Bill and ensure its compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Heyns after his visit in March 2012 had also said that specific attention should be given to "challenging the general culture of impunity; eliminating the practice of fake encounters; and ensuring that swift, decisive action, with concrete outcomes, was taken in cases of large-scale killings" and that delays in judicial proceedings was one of the most serious challenges that India faced.

The report quotes National Crime Records Bureau data, which shows that crimes against Dalits have increased from 39,408 in 2013 to 47,064 cases in 2014. Between 2013-15 the highest number of registered cases of crimes against scheduled castes has been seen in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.

The Special Rapporteur on minority issues states in her report that 95 percent of the manual scavengers are Dalit women while referring to reports that show that as few as 13 percent of Dalit women have benefitted from manual scavengers rehabilitation scheme.

The Special Rapporteur on housing, in her report last year, had recommended that India enact legislation to curb "all forms of de facto housing discrimination" against any individual or group, especially religious or ethnic minorities, women, scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, internal migrants and manual scavengers.

The UN human rights office’s report also mentions that "several incidents" at universities in 2016 had triggered debate on the application of penal provisions relating to hate speech, sedition and the use of section 144 of the Indian Penal Code to prohibit the rights to assemble and to protest. The assassinations of well-known rationalists had "added to the concerns about the reduced space for free speech and expression".

One of the UN experts' recommendations that India should implement in full and throughout the country the ban by the Supreme Court on Khap Panchayats, has also been cited by the UN.

The issues of "coerced, unsafe, and unethical" sterilisations in government-sponsored health camps, especially in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, open defecation and the cancellation of FCRA licenses for NGOs, have been raised in the UN report as well.

India, in its report to the UN’s human rights office, states that though concerns have been raised with regard to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), however, AFSPA is applied only to disturbed areas "where the ordinary law and order machinery is deemed insufficient to deal with exigent circumstances like insurgency". The Supreme Court of India has upheld the constitutionality of AFSPA and has laid down strict guidelines for the exercise of powers under AFSPA, India stated.

"Recently, the court held that use of excessive force or retaliatory force by the armed forces of the Union is not permissible in the course of the discharge of their duty under the act, and that AFSPA does not allow blanket immunity to perpetrators of unjustified deaths or offences," the report says.

"There is a view" that provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which allow the state to detain a person without charge for up to 180 days and limit the power of courts to grant bail in pending cases, could be misused — these provisions have been enacted in order to deal with the "exigent threat of terror and insurgency".

The Law Commission of India has studied and made recommendations to address judicial delays and backlogs. This report is under "active consideration" by the Indian government and the Supreme Court, the Indian report states.

Though India recognises "the centrality of free speech and expression, a range of laws that prohibit speech that has harmful social consequences, like those criminalising defamation and sedition, have been upheld by the Supreme Court, which has found them compliant with the right to free speech".

"To ensure inclusive access to housing", the government "provides preferential allotment in housing facilities under various schemes to marginalised communities such as minorities" and has earmarked 15 percent of its outlay on various schemes and programmes for socio-economic empowerment, for minorities, the Indian report says.

These are some of the highlights of the 27-page report submitted by the Indian government to the UN.

The Indian delegation to defend India's human rights record at the HRC in Geneva consists of 18 officials, including the Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, and others from the home ministry, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Minority Affairs and NITI Aayog, among others.

More than 100 countries are expected to speak at the HRC on Thursday in a peer-review process — known as the universal periodic review (UPR) — of examining India’s human rights record. This is India’s third UPR. India’s first and second UPR reviews took place in April 2008 and May 2012, respectively. India is one of the 14 states to be reviewed in this UPR cycle to be held between 1 and 12 May.


Published Date: May 04, 2017 09:46 pm | Updated Date: May 04, 2017 09:50 pm

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