2019 UN REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
A UN human rights report on the situation in India-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir from May 2018 to April 2019, says the number of civilian casualties reported over the 12-month period may be the highest in over a decade, and noted that neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier UN report.
The new report describes how tensions over Kashmir – which rose sharply after a deadly suicide bombing in February targeting Indian security forces in Pulwama — continue to have a severe impact on the human rights of civilians, including the right to life.
According to data gathered by local civil society, the report says, “around 160 civilians were killed in 2018, which is believed to be the highest number in over a decade. Last year also registered the highest number of conflict-related casualties since 2008 with 586 people killed, including 267 members of armed groups and 159 security forces personnel.” The report notes that the Union Ministry for Home Affairs has published lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 terrorists and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to 2 December 2018.
Of the 160 civilian deaths reported by local organizations, 71 were allegedly killed by Indian security forces, 43 by alleged members of armed groups or by unidentified gunmen, and 29 were reportedly killed due to shelling and firing by Pakistani troops in areas along the Line of Control. According to the Government of Pakistan, a further 35 civilians were killed and 135 injured on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control due to shelling and firing by Indian forces during 2018.
The report notes that in Indian-Administered Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remains virtually non-existent. Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of encounters between security forces and members of armed groups, it says, “there is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties. There is no information on the status of the five investigations launched into extrajudicial executions in 2016. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir did not establish any investigations into civilian killings in 2017. No prosecutions have been reported. It does not appear that Indian security forces have been asked to re-evaluate or change their crowd-control techniques or rules of engagement.”
Arbitrary detention and so-called “cordon and search operations” leading to a range of human rights violations, continue to be deeply problematic, as do the special legal regimes applying to Indian-Adminstered Kashmir.
“The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) remains a key obstacle to accountability,” the report says. “Section 7 of the AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Government of India grants a prior permission or ‘sanction’ to prosecute. In nearly three decades that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government. The Indian Army has also been resisting efforts to release details of trials conducted by military courts where soldiers were initially found guilty but later acquitted and released by a higher military tribunal.”
In addition, the report notes, “no security forces personnel accused of torture or other forms of degrading and inhuman treatment have been prosecuted in a civilian court since these allegations started emerging in the early 1990s.” And despite international concerns at the alarming numbers of deaths and life-altering injuries caused by the security forces’ regular use of shotguns as a means of crowd control – even though they are not deployed elsewhere in India – they continue to be employed, leading to further deaths and serious injuries. The report describes how, among various other incidents, a 19-month-old girlwas hit by metal shotgun pellets in her right eye on 25 November 2018. According to information from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where most people injured by shotgun pellets are treated, “a total of 1,253 people have been blinded by the metal pellets used by security forces from mid-2016 to end of 2018.”
“Anti-terrorism laws continue to be misused to target political opposition as well as civil society activists,” the report says, adding that nationalist and pro-independence political parties “claim that they regularly face threats, intimidation and even arrests for their political activities from local authorities or intelligence agencies.” Threats are also often “directed at their family members including children.”
The report stresses that no clears steps have been taken to address and implement the recommendations” made in the UN Human Rights Office’s previous report, published in June 2018. It therefore restates those recommendations along with additional ones. It also calls on the 47-Member-State UN Human Rights Council to “consider… the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigations into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”
- The full 2019 report is available here.
2018 UN REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The report describes the situation of human rights in the Indian-administrated Kashmir over the period July 2016 to April 2018. This period saw a dramatic increase in human rights violations, particularly the use of excessive force by the Indian security forces that resulted in heavy civilian casualties.
Starting from July 2016 the United Nation has made frequent requests to both governments of India and Pakistan to be allowed unconditional access to Kashmir to unable first-hand information on the human rights situation to be obtained. To date, the Pakistan government has agreed to the UN request while the Indian government has so far refused to grant access to the territory of Indian administrated Kashmir. The Pakistan offer has been conditional on the Indian-administration granting unconditional access to the territory on its side of the Line of Control. In the absence of unconditional access, the authors of the UN report has been obliged to use remote monitoring methods to acquire information.
A particular concern is a legal framework underpinning a system which provides minimum recourse to Kashmir in the face of major human rights challenges. Special laws enforced in the territory have created structures that obstruct the normal processes of law and justice and robs the civilian population of their right to legal remedy in case of alleged violations of human rights. Thus, there has been little movement towards the establishment of a credible investigative machinery into the contents of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley.