Accountability for HR abuses by Indian forces remains virtually non-existent: UN report The UN rights office on Monday said that India and Pakistan failed to improve the situation in Kashmir and have not taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised in an earlier report by the rights body.
Last year, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released its first-ever report on Kashmir, documenting the wrongdoing by India and Pakistan and urging action to reduce long-standing tensions.
“A UN human rights report on the situation in 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,” the new report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.
The rights office said “neither India nor Pakistan have taken any concrete steps to address the numerous concerns raised.”
“In Kashmir, accountability for violations committed by members of the Indian security forces remains virtually non-existent,” the report said.
The report also calls on the 47-member 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.
According to data gathered by JKCCS, 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 forces personnel.”
The report notes that the Indian Union Ministry for Home Affairs has published lower casualty figures, citing 37 civilians, 238 militants and 86 security forces personnel killed in the 11 months up to 2 December 2018.
Of the 160 civilian deaths reported by local organizations, it says, 71 were allegedly killed by Indian 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.
Two armed groups have been accused of recruiting and deploying child soldiers in Kashmir, and armed groups were reportedly responsible for attacks on people affiliated or associated with political organizations in Jammu and Kashmir, including the killing of at least six political party workers and a separatist leader.
Despite the high numbers of civilians killed in the vicinity of encounters between 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 government 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 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-administered” Kashmir, it says.
“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,” it says.
In addition, the report notes, “no 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, it says.
The report stresses that “neither the Governments of India nor of Pakistan have taken clear steps 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 investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.” (Additional inputs from GNS)