UN human rights experts urge India to end blackout in Kashmir Valley, call it 'collective punishment' for entire J&K

  • United Nations called upon India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests

  • Five United Nations human rights experts have urged the Indian government to end the 'crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests'

  • The experts described the prevailing situation in the erstwhile state as 'collective punishment' for the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir

As communication blackout in Kashmir entered its 19th day, the human rights experts of the United Nations called upon India to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests.

Though the government claims that slowly communication services are being restored in the Valley, five United Nations human rights experts have urged the Indian government to end the “crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests”.

The experts described the prevailing situation in the erstwhile state as “collective punishment” for the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” said the experts. “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

The government has also imposed a curfew across Jammu and Kashmir, bringing in massive numbers of troops to enforce restrictions on the freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly, particularly in the Kashmir Valley. “We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government are intrinsically disproportionate because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly,” said the experts.

At the same time, information received suggests that there has been an increase in the arrest of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and others.

The experts said they were deeply concerned about reports that security forces were conducting night raids on private homes leading to the arrests of young people. “Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” the experts said. “The allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, and, if confirmed, those responsible must be held accountable.

“We are gravely concerned about allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained are not known as well as the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks,” added the experts.

They also expressed serious concern about the use of excessive force against protesters, including the use of live ammunition, which could amount to violations of the right to life. “India has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests,” the experts said. ”This means that the use of deadly force is a measure permissible only as last resort and to protect life.”

 UN human rights experts urge India to end blackout in Kashmir Valley, call it collective punishment for entire J&K

Kashmiri women walk in a deserted street during restrictions, in Srinagar. Reuters

On Thursday, officials said that restrictions were eased in most areas of Kashmir with barricades being lifted and the movement of people and traffic increasing gradually, but markets remained shut and mobile and internet services suspended for the 18th day.

Officials said the situation was peaceful and no untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the Kashmir Valley on Wednesday.

In view of the improving situation, the movement of people and traffic was slowly increasing in the city and other district headquarters of the Valley, they said.

Public transport stayed off the roads, but a few inter-district cabs and auto-rickshaws were seen plying in some areas.

The attendance of teachers in schools up to middle class-level and employees in government offices was also improving. However, most students stayed away due to the prevailing situation, they added.

These experts include: David Kaye from USA, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Michel Forst from France, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur, working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances,  Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, and Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2019 11:21:18 IST