Kashmir unrest: UN human rights chief lashes out at India, Pakistan

The UN human rights chief slammed India and Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for denying his team access to visit both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) emphasising that it has now become crucial to establish an “independent, impartial and international mission” to the conflict-ridden region.

 Kashmir unrest: UN human rights chief lashes out at India, Pakistan

Stone pelting in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

“Two months ago, I requested the agreement of the governments of India and Pakistan to invite teams from my office to visit both sides of the line of control: in other words the India-Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir,” said the UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein on Tuesday at the opening session of UNHRC.

“We furthermore received conflicting narratives from the two sides as to the cause for the confrontations and the reported large numbers of people killed and wounded. I believe an independent, impartial and international mission is now needed crucially and that it should be given free and complete access to establish an objective assessment of the claims made by the two sides,” he said.

The top UN official also said that they continue receiving reports of Indian forces using “force excessively against civilian population under its administration”.

The Valley has erupted into violence after a popular Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces in July this year. The violence that has stretched to 66 days and counting is one of the bloodiest summers the region has witnessed in the last five years.

In spite of a lockdown, anti-India protesters have called for a march to the UN office in Srinagar. Tensions have been further heightened due to Eid-ul-Adha that has kept the Indian troops on the alert even though there is a continuing ban on public assembly this year.

Zeid stated that he received a letter from the government of Pakistan on 9 September formally inviting a team from his office to visit the Pakistan side of the line of control but only in tandem with a mission to the Indian side.

“I have yet to receive a formal letter from the government of India. I therefore request here and publicly, from the two governments, access that is unconditional to both sides of the line of control,” he said.

The opening statement of the UN high commissioner for human rights at the HRC focused on issues of access of the UN to troubled areas and the growing trend of an increasing number of countries to refuse to grant access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and/or other human rights mechanisms to their countries or specific troubled regions.

“What is this United Nations? Outdated, laughable nonsense – bureaucrats and gilded elites!,” he said in a hard-hitting statement to the Council.

Governments accuse the OHCHR of “interfering” in the internal affairs of sovereign states when violations of human rights are pointed out to them and his statements referring to these violations are termed "biased", "irresponsible", "misleading" or based on "false" premises, Zeid said.

Quoting the Vienna Declaration which states that "the promotion and protection of all human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community", he argued that human rights is not exclusively a national issue.

Apart from India and Pakistan, the high commissioner mentioned Syria, Venezuela, Turkey, Ethiopia, Gambia, Burundi, China, Nepal, the US (for refusing access to Guantanamo Bay), Israel, Iran, North Korea, among other countries for non-cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms.

“Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity. On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us?" he said.

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Updated Date: Sep 13, 2016 21:11:52 IST