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October 26, 2019

The Elders call for open access to IOK

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October 26, 2019

LONDON: The Elders, a group of independent leaders, has called for open access to Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to assess humanitarian and rights situation. The Elders expressed grave concern at the recent killings by militants and security forces in IOK and urged both Pakistan and India to act with restraint and responsibility to defuse tensions. They called on India to allow international delegations and monitors full access to IOK to properly assess the humanitarian and human rights situation in the territory.

The Elders are independent leaders using their collective experience and influence for peace, justice and human rights worldwide. The group was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007.

The Elders are Ban Ki-moon (Deputy Chair), Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, Hina Jilani, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ricardo Lagos, Graça Machel (Deputy Chair), Juan Manuel Santos, Mary Robinson (Chair) and Ernesto Zedillo.

Martti Ahtisaari, ElaBhatt, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are Elders Emeritus. Kofi Annan (1938-2018) was a founding member of The Elders and served as Chair from 2013 to 2018.

The Elders noted that India had lifted restrictions on tourists to Kashmir, which had been issued on 2 August, three days before New Delhi abolished the territory’s previous autonomous status under India’s constitution, and signalled that some mobile phone services would be restored.

“India should now lift all travel, internet and phone service restrictions so independent and authoritative assessments can be made of humanitarian needs and alleged human rights abuses,” it said.

Amid a suspension of democratic institutions and freedoms in IOK, including a two month-long shutdown of Internet services and mobile phone networks, The Elders expressed grave concern at credible reports of serious human rights violations including arbitrary arrests and allegations of torture and sexual assault carried out by security forces.

They reiterated their fears of the risk of renewed conflict between Pakistan and India, both nuclear-armed states, over Kashmir and called on the countries’ leaders to urgently adopt mutual confidence-building measures aimed at easing tensions, including more robust channels of communication.

Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “The situation today in Kashmir is very dangerous. Blocking Internet access and mobile networks is tantamount to collective punishment which has a harmful impact on public health as well as freedom of expression. These services need to be restored in full without further delay. The Kashmiri people have suffered for decades from being pawns in power games between New Delhi and Islamabad. India and Pakistan both need to assume their responsibility to take appropriate measures to build trust, curb extremism and restore genuine peace and calm.”

The Elders member Lakhdar Brahimi is an Algerian United Nations diplomat who served as the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria until 14 May 2014.

Gro Harlem Brundtland is a Norwegian politician, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway and as Director-General of the World Health Organisation from 1998 to 2003.

Prince Zeid Raad is the Perry World House Professor of the Practice of Law and Human Rights at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a former Jordanian diplomat who also served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014 to 2018.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018.

Ricardo Froilán Lagos Escobar is a Chilean lawyer, economist and social-democratic politician who served as President of Chile from 2000 to 2006.

Graça Machel is a Mozambican politician and humanitarian.

Juan Manuel Santos Calderón GColIH GCB is a Colombian politician. From 2010 to 2018, he was the President of Colombia. He was the sole recipient of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mary Therese Winifred Robinson is an Irish Independent politician who served as the seventh President of Ireland from December 1990 to September 1997, becoming the first woman to hold this office.

Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León is a Mexican economist and politician. He was President of Mexico from 1 December 1994 to 30 November 2000

Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and a United Nations diplomat and mediator noted for his international peace work.

Ela Ramesh Bhatt is an Indian cooperative organiser, activist and Gandhian, who founded the Self-Employed Women's Association of India in 1972.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso is a Brazilian sociologist, professor and politician who served as the 34th President of Brazil from January 1, 1995 to December 31, 2002.

James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

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