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JRL seeks setting up of an independent international commission of inquiry to conduct HR violations in Kashmir

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Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik

 Srinagar June 20, CNS: The Joint Resistance Leadership comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yasin Malik on behalf of the people of Jammu & Kashmir has sent a petition to United Nations Human Rights Council demanding the establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the grotesque human rights violations in Kashmir.

The petition forwarded by JRL to His Excellency  Hon. Ambassador Vojislav Šuc President United Nations Human Rights Council Geneva, Switzerland reads: “On behalf of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, we extend our deep gratitude to the Human Rights Council for the report issued by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights (UNHCHR) on the situation in Kashmir. We share the assessment of the report that the situation is extremely serious while at the same time providing us an opportunity to addresses it so as to put to an end such egregious violations.

The people of Kashmir suffer daily violations of their basic human rights. Death and destruction have exhausted the most scenic and tranquil location in the world – the Valley of Kashmir. Today, the carefree sounds of children’s laughter have been replaced by the piercing sounds of gunfire. Time is not on the side of the people of Kashmir. More and more atrocities are being committed by the Indian security forces and every day a larger segment of the population becomes alienated.

The extent of this tragedy was revealed to the world in January of this year when 8-year old Asifa was abducted, drugged, gang-raped and finally murdered. Those who wanted to conceal this atrocious crime included two sitting ministers of the state government belonging to the Bharatiya Janta Party, Rape was used as a weapon of war. Asifa’s case is not an isolated one. There are hundreds of incidents of innocent women whose honor was violated in Indian occupied Kashmir the most glaring being the mass rape of Kunan Poshpora in 1991 by the Indian armed forces. All those cases need to reopen and investigated by an international neutral agency.”

“The present situation is too dangerous. It must not be allowed to go on. The Council has condemned such violations elsewhere in the world, it cannot ignore the same abuses in Kashmir. Given the goodwill and the respect for international law, it is possible to bring these atrocities to a complete end.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act in Kashmir empowers police to arrest and detain within sweeping bounds. These prevailing draconian laws provide total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. An Indian soldier can shoot to kill at will and he will not be accountable to anybody or any agency for any prosecution.

The New York Times in its editorial on July 21, 2016, wrote, “Kashmir is subject to India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, which grants the military wide powers to arrest, shoot to kill, occupy or destroy property. The result is a culture of brutal disdain for the local population.”

“The United Nations report also details many instances where the use of draconian laws has given a sense of total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. It states “The government of India has passed legislation under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act of 1990 which gives extraordinary power to all ranks of the Indian military and paramilitary forces.” These laws, the report emphasizes, “have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”

“Apart from the magnitude of violence by the military forces, its use of shotgun pellets has blinded hundreds of youth in Kashmir. New York Times on July 25, 2016, described the effect of pellet gun frequently used by Indian army in Kashmir.
“A single shot from such gun sprays more than a hundred mettle-pellets. A pellet is a high-velocity projectile 2mm to 4mm around and with sharp edges. It doesn’t simply penetrate an eye; it ricochets inside it, tearing the retina and the optic nerves, scooping out flesh and bone.” Amnesty International wrote on August 5, 2016, “Pellet guns are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, and have no place in law enforcement…Hundreds of people have been injured, and many blinded, by the use of pellet guns by armed forces in Kashmir in recent weeks.”

“Detention of thousands of political prisoners by the authorities in Kashmir besmirches India’s boast as the world’s most populous democracy and insistence that its military occupation of Kashmir is welcomed and endorsed by the Kashmiri people. The detention of these political leaders is to punish their successful and peaceful campaign against Indian occupation. Such peaceful political protest is a time-honored and celebrated form of freedom of speech and association recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The council must intervene and impress upon Govt of India for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and terminate regular house arrest of pro-freedom leadership. Their release will pave the way to create a conducive atmosphere in Kashmir.

The convening of the 38th regular session of the Human Rights Council this week in Geneva presents the world community of nations a unique opportunity to discuss the human rights situation and recommend the practical steps and procedures to address the human rights atrocities in Kashmir.”

“We have carefully studied the entire report on the situation in Kashmir. While we appreciate the positive elements of the report in the situation of both Jammu and Kashmir, Azad Kashmir & Gilgit Baltistan, we feel we would be remiss in our duty as the leaders of the people of Kashmir, if with our knowledge of the ground realities, we failed to draw your attention to the single most recommendation made by the UNHCHR to the Human Rights Council – to establish a Commission on the situation in Kashmir.”

“The people of Kashmir look toward the Human Rights Council as the custodian of the moral responsibility of the United Nations. First, the Human Rights Commission and now the Human Rights Council has championed the principle that the plea of internal jurisdiction cannot exonerate a government’s commission of massive and systematic violations of human rights. The principal gains an immeasurable added force and should compel intervention by the Council to help establish a Commission on Kashmir as recommended by the UNHCHR when the scene of atrocities is not recognized as falling within the internal jurisdiction of any state. We know that Kashmir is a disputed territory, recognized by the successive United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir, whose status is yet to be decided by its people.”

“We beg to draw your attention to the human urgency of the situation in Kashmir and the implications it has for the credibility of the United Nations which, as the President of the Council, you have done so much to strengthen and enhance.

In saying this, we are by no means unmindful of the fact that, in your capacity as the President of the Council, you have to be impartial between the Member States and perceived to be so. It is, therefore, on the ground of the established facts in the UN report that we approach you with the appeal that you exercise your good offices to persuade the members of the Council to help establish the Commission on Kashmir.”

“Although the focus of this petition is on the recent Report of the UNHCHR, we conclude by drawing your attention to the urgent need for the resolution of the dispute over the State of Jammu and Kashmir in its entirety. The non-resolution of the dispute is indeed both the cause and the consequence of all human rights violations and the cruel uncertainty suffered by the people of the State on both sides of the Line of Control. Furthermore, the dispute is implicitly accepted even by the Government of India in its long record of negotiations with the people of Kashmir and Pakistan over the last seven decades. We would strongly argue that in the final analysis to curtail the repeated return of the problems faced by the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir be allowed to exercise the right to self-determination as promised by the United Nations. The U.N. must lead the way towards the resolution.”