UNHCR Kashmir report calls for international inquiry: All you need to know about commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein

The United Nations on Thursday released the first-ever report on alleged human rights violations in both Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as it demanded an international inquiry.

The UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also asked Pakistan to end its "misuse" of anti-terror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and quash dissent.

File image of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Reuters

File image of Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Reuters

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein called for maximum restraint and for establishing a commission of inquiry. He said, "It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir."

Even in September last year, Zeid, in his comments at the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, had criticised India on the issue of deportation of Rohingya as well as on religious intolerance and threat to rights activists. New Delhi had reacted strongly to the statement saying, it was surprised that individual incidents are being "extrapolated" to suggest a broader societal situation.

Zeid has "a strong rights record," according to Human Rights Watch's executive director Kenneth Roth. The positive reactions to Zeid since he was unanimously approved as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights are based on his role in advancing the International Criminal Court and seeking to hold UN peacekeeping personnel accountable for sexual violence, according to Foreign Policy.

Zeid has served as President of the United Nations Security Council, Chair of the Security Council's 1533 and 1521 committees on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia, Jordan's "Sherpa" following the Washington Summit on Nuclear Security, and Chair of the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

He is a member of the advisory committee to "The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation", based in The Hague, and served as a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council for the 2011 World Development Report.

Zeid has also served as political affairs officer in UNPROFOR in the former Yugoslavia, from 1994 to 1996. He worked with peacekeeping issues for over nineteen years, notably as one of Ban Ki-moon's five eminent experts on his "Senior Advisory Group" on the reimbursements to countries contributing troops to peacekeeping.

Following allegations of widespread abuse committed by United Nations peacekeepers in 2004, Zeid was appointed by Kofi Annan as Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

'Most prolific slaughterhouses'

Zeid accused the veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council of being second only to criminals who kill and maim when it comes to responsibility for some of the world's most egregious rights violations.

Zeid, while speaking to the Human Rights Council in February this year, said that Syria – and other conflict zones – had "become some of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times"

He denounced the "minimal action" taken even though his office has repeatedly exposed human rights violations that "should have served as a trigger for preventive action."

'Not seeking a second term'

Zeid, in December last year, announced his decision to not seek a second four-year term, saying it "might involve bending a knee in supplication." In a statement to his staff, he said, "After reflection, I have decided not to seek a second four-year term,” he wrote.

"To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice — which is your voice."

The decision came shortly after Zeid described the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as "dangerously provocative". According to The New York Times, he has been outspoken about the Russian-backed government of Syria.

He has called out the Trump administration several times, most pointedly on the travel ban against citizens of Muslim-majority countries and after the demonstrations by white supremacists in Charlottesville, the report added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had urged Zeid to ease off his public criticism of Trump over fears that it will put US support for the UN at risk, reported Foreign Policy, which obtained the Human Rights chief’s email to staff.

With inputs from agencies


Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 13:25 PM

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