UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will be leaving his post on August 31, 2018 after his four-year tenure ends. He has not sought re-election to his post. Nevertheless, he kicked off a major storm in June on India’s human rights situation by releasing a report on Kashmir.
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering,” says the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties, and provide redress for victims.”
Noting the continuing serious tensions, including those stemming from a series of incidents in Srinagar, he called on Indian security forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests. “It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid said.
The report in June greatly upset the Indian government. New Delhi immediately rejected Zeid’s report in which he had called for a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent, international investigation into the human rights situation in Indian held Kashmir.
Later, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal, responding to Pakistan envoy discussing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir at a UN session, had said that the “so-called” report reflected the “clear bias of an official who was acting without any mandate whatsoever and relied on unverified sources of information”. She went to the extent of saying that there had been yet another attempt by Pakistan to misuse the UN forum by referring to situations that were extraneous to the discussions.
Not to be left behind, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, trying to downplay the abuses of Indian forces in occupied territory by shifting blame, said the recent report on human rights violations in Kashmir, released by the United Nations, was ‘motivated’. “I don’t think we should get too concerned with these reports. Some of these reports [by human rights organisations] are motivated,” General Rawat said.
“General Rawat did not specify the motivations he was talking about, and did not provide examples of ‘motivated’ reports by United Nations, which made his claims even more dubious,” a newspaper report said.
On the other hand, the Asia Times said India could have expressed some willingness at least to look into the allegations made, if not acknowledge them. “Instead the MEA chose to accuse the OHCHR of falling prey to individual prejudices. But what good is an accusation without evidence. Barring some out of context precedents from the past, there is nothing irrefutable to suggest any personal prejudice by the high commissioner or his staff in this particular case,” it declared.
At a recent farewell news conference at the UN, Al Hussein said he still stood by his report. He said he had asked for “unconditional access” to both sides of the Line of Control from Pakistan and India and is “still waiting” for such an access.
The UN members should follow through and the UN Human Rights Council should establish a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir. On the other hand, knee-jerk reactions won’t help India at international fora.