Kashmir issue: UN human rights chief says denial of 'unconditional access' to troubled regions will lead to remote monitoring

The UN human rights chief reiterated his request for “unconditional access” of his office to the troubled regions of “India-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir” warning that the denial of access will eventually lead to “various forms of remote monitoring” by his office and making the reports public.

“Despite repeated high-level requests to India and Pakistan, permission for my staff to have unconditional access to both sides of the Line of Control in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir has still not been granted, and we continue to receive reports of increasing violence, civilian casualties, curfews and website blackout,” the UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a speech opening a three-week UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session on Tuesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. AP

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. AP

He had made the same request to the nuclear-armed neighbours in the last HRC session in March.

“As this council is aware, where the human rights situation appears critical, and where access is repeatedly denied to my office, the only option open to us may be to conduct various forms of remote monitoring. So long as refusals to enable access persist, I will be compelled to consider reporting publicly and regularly on their findings,” he added referencing the Kashmir situation among a host of other country situations including in Turkey, Venezuela, Democratic Republic of Congo and Crimea.

In a strong statement that will presumably ruffle feathers in diplomatic circles, al-Hussein took on politicians who defy international laws and their own constitutions speaking of the “brazen absence of shame” among growing number of politicians worldwide.

“When thug-like leaders ride to power, democratically or otherwise, and openly defy, not only their own laws and constitutions, but also their obligations under international law, where is their shame? Do they not feel disgusted with themselves when they incite or condone acts of violence and bigotry?” the top UN human rights official said.

Making an oblique reference to the Filipino president’s recent "joke" that every soldier should be limited to three rapes of village women each, “have they no conscience?” al-Hussein asked.

In recent sessions, the UN rights chief has been naming countries at the HRC who have not been cooperating or selectively cooperating with his office or where there have been rights violations of concern to the UN.

“I am told repeatedly we should not be "naming and shaming" states. But it is not the naming that shames. The shame comes from the actions themselves, the conduct or violations at issue,” he said in his speech.

He asked for cooperation from Myanmar’s government for the new fact-finding mission on the country headed by noted Indian advocate Indira Jaising, for “full and unmonitored access” to the Rakhine state “where we believe the violations of human rights have been horrifying in the extreme.”

Calling it “absolutely unacceptable”, al-Hussein asked governments to put an end to hate campaigns against UN experts in light of recent incidences against Special Rapporteur on Iran Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee and Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Agnes Callamard .

While praising “considerable efforts” by Australia, Brazil, Chile, Georgia, Italy, Mexico, Tunisia and the US to cooperate with human rights mandate holders, al-Hussein called on the US to grant access to the Special Rapporteur on Torture to Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Though China has invited four UN experts to the country in the past seven years, these missions have “faced challenges with regard to the necessary freedom of movement and access to independent civil society.”

al-Hussein began his speech with the Palestine-Israel issue that is bound to irritate the American government even more — the US has consistently lashed out at the HRC for an anti-Israel bias. The Donald Trump administration has even threatened to withdraw from the HRC owing to this “chronic bias”.

“Yet it is also undeniable that today, the Palestinian people mark a half-century of deep suffering under an occupation imposed by military force,” al-Hussein told the HRC.

“The sine qua non for peace – the end of the occupation – must now be brought about, and soon,” he added.

Though the Israelis also have “suffered grievously”, they have long had their state.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, reiterated in her brief statement to the HRC that it is “hard to accept” that though the council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela, yet it “adopted five biased resolutions in March against a single country, Israel.”

“It is essential that this council address its chronic anti-Israel bias, if it is to have any credibility,” said Haley.

Only 33 governments including Canada, the US, China, Russia, Bhutan are up-to-date with their treaty body reporting while as many as 280 initial reports have never been submitted after having ratified a treaty or a related protocol.

“To achieve progress in human rights takes a great deal more than the flourish of a signature at the bottom of a document,” al-Hussein said.

Updated Date: Jun 06, 2017 22:31 PM

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