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Press Release: Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisation (CDRO)

CDRO fully agrees with the 17 demands made to the Government of India by the OHCHR

Aug 04, 2018

CDRO notes with concern the negative responses elicited from the Government of India and sections of the Indian media, to the report titled, “On the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir:  Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan”, brought out by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR). Dismissing it as “malafide” and a direct attack on India’s sovereignty, the Government has been quick to question the authority and the veracity of the observations made by the OHCHR on human rights violations taking place in Kashmir. To the extent, that on 17 July 2018, nearly a month after the publication of the report, theSpokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, had to come out with a statement, countering the false propaganda mounted by Indian authorities.

Denied access to visit the region physically, the 49-page OHCHR report relies on sources that include amongst others, proceedings of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,records of the Ministry of External Affairs, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, the Union Ministry of Defence, Supreme Court of India, Press Trust of India, statements made by the Chief of Army Staff and even that of a former Vice President. Extensively referenced, the report contains a total of 388 footnotes, that bring to light various important dimensions of human rights violations taking place in Kashmir.

Covering developments between June 2016 and April 2018, the report makes a number ofimportant observations.To begin with it, it recognizes Kashmir as one of the most militarized zones in the world. Drawing attention to the special laws in force such as Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) that gives unconditional immunity to security forces to kill unarmed civilians, during routine search and cordon operations; it also takes note of the fact that no sanction has been given for prosecution of any armed personnel by the Central government in the last 28 years. With regard to the PSA, the report notes the wide use of the Act to target human rights defenders, journalists, separatist political leaders, suspected members of armed opposition groups and people involved in protests. The report also draws attention to multiple cases of children under 18 years being detained under PSA during the 2016 unrest. The report also acknowledges the limitation faced by the National Human Rights Commission in investigating cases of violations involving armed personnel.In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, the report is critical of the excessive use of force especially involving the use of pellet guns against protesters by security forces. The report acknowledges that the pellet-firing shotgun was first used in Kashmir during mass protests in 2010; and has not been known to have been used against protesters anywhere else in India.

The OHCHR report also outrightly holds the Indian Government as violating several important provisions of human rights treaties signed by it. For example, the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officialsrequires security forces to ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment. However, the report draws attention to the fact that during the 2016 unrest, there were numerous reports of attacks on, and obstruction of, basic medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in Kashmir. The report therefore holds the Indian government responsible for violating the commitment made to respect, protect and fulfill the right to health as committed by it under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Similarlythe restrictions on journalists and those wishing to travel to human rights-related meetings by the Indian Government are not foundcompatible with commitments made under Article 19(3)of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, dealing with the right to freedom of expression.Similar violations of the same Covenant are also reported in relation to cases of torture.The OHCHR report is also critical of the fact that while India is a signatory to the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance, these are neither codified as criminal offences in domestic law, nor are there extant provisions of law used to deter the practice.The report also draws on the submissions made by the United Nations Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict in 2017 to highlight the damage caused to schools and the cumulative impact of long periods of curfew on students and their right to education. The OHCHR report also raises the issue of justice denied to survivors of sexual violence.It reiterates the demands made by the Special Rapporteur on Violence on Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Womenurging India to amend or repeal the AFSPA.

CDRO fully agrees with the points and the 17 demands made to the Government of India by the OHCHR which includes amongst others respect for the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law, repeal of AFSPA,establishment of independent, impartial and credible investigations into all cases of civilian killings and excessive use of force by security forces, including serious injuries caused by the use of the pellet-firing shotguns since July 2016. In reiterating its support to the demands put forth in the OHCHR report, CDRO also requests to the Government of India to allow inter-governmental bodies working on human rights issues to visit the State of Jammu and Kashmir in future.

On behalf of CDRO,
Asish Gupta,Coordinator.

Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR,Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep(Delhi).

Aug 04, 2018