The ICJ welcomes the report issued today by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documenting human rights violations and abuses in Indian administered Kashmir and Pakistan administered Kashmir.
The ICJ called upon both India and Pakistan to take immediate measures to implement the Report’s main recommendations, and to hold security forces as well as non-state actors accountable for human rights violations and abuses.
The Report follows a June 2018 report that documented similar violations, as well as the widespread impunity for human rights violations by Indian security forces and armed groups allegedly supported by Pakistan. The Indian Government has rejected both reports as a violation of its “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. The Pakistan government has welcomed the report and called for the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry.
“It is unfortunate that India has again refused to acknowledge the facts set out in the OHCHR report, or to pledge action on its recommendations,” said Frederick Rawski, Asia Pacific Director for the ICJ.
“This is an opportunity for India, a member of the Human Rights Council, to lead by example. It can start by repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and launching an investigation into rights abuses in line with international standards and the guidelines set out by the Indian Supreme Court,” he added.
The Report documents human rights violations by Indian security forces including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, unlawful custodial deaths, enforced disappearances, and ill-treatment and torture, including rape and sexual violence, in Indian-administered Kashmir.
According to the Report, based on data from civil society organization Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), 71 extrajudicial killings were allegedly committed by security forces in 2018 (for a total of 1081 between 2008 and 2018). Between 2016 and 2018, 1253 people have been blinded by pellet guns.
The Report highlights how the extraordinary powers granted to security forces by the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 has been wielded arbitrarily and led to near total impunity from prosecution. In addition, it documents human rights abuses committed by non-state armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir including kidnappings, killings and rape.
The Report also documents rights violations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, including restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, assembly and association, and the abuse of vague and overbroad anti-terrorism laws in contravention of international human rights law.
The Report documents cases of arbitrary arrest by local authorities and intelligence agencies, including charging 19 activists with treason for organizing a rally in November 2018, and the arbitrary detention of 30 members of the Jammu Kashmir National Students Federation in March 2019 by Pakistani law enforcement. The Report notes the particular vulnerability of journalists to threats, harassment and arbitrary arrest.
“While we commend Pakistan for welcoming the Report, the fact remains that the Government has done little to prevent the continuation of human rights violations by its security forces, or to implement the recommendations of the previous report,” Rawski said.
“Pakistan must take action to hold perpetrators of rights violations accountable, and take action to end threats and violence targeted at human rights defenders and journalists,” he added.
The ICJ called on both Pakistan and India to grant unconditional access to the OHCHR and Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, and to ensure that human rights defenders and journalists can carry out their work without threats or reprisals from security forces and non-State armed groups.
The ICJ also underscores the importance of the OHCHR recommendation that the United Nations set up an independent commission of inquiry into allegations of rights violations by all parties to the conflict.
The ICJ urged both the Indian and Pakistan governments to respect, protect and fulfill their international human rights obligations in Kashmir, to accept the Report’s findings and take immediate and effective action to implement its recommendations.