UN seeks details on Kashmir killings, India calls it ‘closed chapter’

Three special rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights
Council (UNHRC) have written to India and sought details on steps taken to
punish or provide justice to victims and their next of kin in 76 cases of
torture and arbitrary killing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990, a media report
said today.

According to The Wire, the letter to the Indian government, dated March 18, is written by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Dainius Puras and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer.

The report said the letter was made public on the UNHRC
website on May 18 after a scheduled interval of 60 days, along with India’s
reply that refused to provide any clarifications.

The letter relates to 76 cases of torture and killings of
civilians, which include 13 just in 2018. These 2018 cases included eight
civilian killings allegedly by security forces, and the rest by militants, it
said.

“In all these cases, the authorities have reportedly failed
to conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations, so as to ensure that
the rule of law prevails, and justice is done and steps are taken to ensure the
non-recurrence of the violations,” wrote the three officials, according to The
Wire.

Reminding that the Human Rights Council had given them the
mandate to seek clarifications from members, the letter asks the Indian
government to provide details on eight issues, ranging from the outcome of the
investigation into the cases to the steps taken to repeal the Armed Forces
(Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.

The letter also had a line stating that it took “note” of
the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights on the human rights situation in Kashmir, released in June 2018. India
had rejected the report and implicitly accused the then UNHRC chief Zeid Ra’ad
Al Hussein of having acted on his “individual prejudices”.

A month later, India’s response to the letter of the three
special rapporteurs focussed on the sentence referring to the UNHRC report.

“India rejects any reference whether implicit or explicit or
any quote by any human rights mechanisms or bodies from the remote report
published by the OHCHR on the situation of human rights in Kashmir in June
2018, India rejects the remote report and doubts on its credibility and objectivity.
The Report begets the question whether individual prejudices should be allowed
to undermine the dignity and standing of the high office,” said the reply from
the Permanent Mission of India to UN offices in Geneva.

Terming the report was “false and motivated”, India said
that it was now a “closed chapter”.

Asserting that terrorism is the “grossest violation”, India
stated that basic human right of “right to life is being constantly violated by
cross border terrorism in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”. It said the
“heinous” attack on a convoy in Pulwama in February 2019 has only
served to underline the criticality of addressing the issue of cross-border
terrorism.

The special rapporteurs have also mentioned the Pulwama
attack in the initial paragraphs of the letter. “We would like at the outset
strongly condemn the suicide bomb attack against Indian security forces in the
Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019, which reportedly
killed over 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force,” they said,
according to the report.

Indicating that it will not respond to the detailed
questions from the special rapporteurs, the Indian reply harped on the mention
of the Kashmir report as the reason to stop further engagement.

“India takes serious objection to using the already rejected
report by the mandate holders that issued the communication AL IND 8/2019 dated
18 March 2019 to raise allegations against India. India, therefore, does not
intend to engage further with these mandate holders or any other mandate
holders on this issue,” said the letter dated April 23.

According to the special rapporteurs, the allegations were
contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by
India in April 1979.

They said that the eight cases related to security forces in
2018 “appear to be deliberate killings or excessive and careless use of
firearms in the context of either demonstrations or social events”. There were
also three cases last year of individuals being killed by militants, including
one case of torture, as per the letter.

The special rapporteurs said that there was an anomaly in
the filing of police complaints through first information reports in these
cases. “It is not clear whether FIRs have been filed or whether magisterial
inquiries have been undertaken, both of which the Supreme Court has ruled are
mandatory for deaths involving the security forces,” they said.

-GK

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