UNHRC condemns India for blocking access to IHK

MEA hits back, says terrorism is worst violation of human rights

Terrorism is the “grossest” violation of human rights, said India, lashing out at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his criticism of action by Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

In his opening statement at the Human Rights Council in Geneva’s annual session, that precedes the UN General Assembly in September each year, Mr. Zeid Al Hussein called for an “independent, impartial and international mission” into reports “claiming the Indian authorities had used force excessively against the civilian population under its administration.” He also said that while Pakistan had responded to the HRC’s request to send the team, agreeing to its visit to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir “in tandem” with a mission to Jammu and Kashmir, India had yet to respond formally.

Responding to the reference to India’s commitment as a member of the Human Rights Council, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the HRC should acknowledge that “Terrorism is the grossest violation of human rights”, and that there was no comparison between PoK and Jammu and Kashmir.

“The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is part of a pluralistic and secular democracy, where freedoms are guaranteed by an independent judiciary, an active media and a vibrant civil society. In contrast, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is administered by a ‘deep state’ and has become a hub for the global export of terror,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement.

Mr. Hussein’s reference at the HRC in Geneva is significant as it sought to put India in the same bracket as Syria, Ethiopia and Venezuela, calling them part of “an emerging pattern” of UN member states who deny the UN body access.

“Human rights violations will not disappear if a government blocks access to international observers and then invests in a public relations campaign to offset any unwanted publicity. On the contrary, efforts to duck or refuse legitimate scrutiny raise an obvious question: what, precisely, are you hiding from us?” he asked in a statement seen as the strongest criticism of countries accused of human rights violations in the last few years.

When asked, government officials said they did not expect the spat between the UN body in Geneva and India to spill over into the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj hopes to make a tough intervention on terrorism on September 26.

However, Mr. Hussein made it clear that he intends to raise what he calls the “alienation and frustration of many throughout the world who feel short-changed by poor governance and corruption” at the UN Summit on refugees and migrants in New York.

Meanwhile, welcoming the statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs (MOFA) also “urged” India to make a formal response to the UN body.

“We strongly support the High Commissioner’s position that the OHCHR (HRC) team should visit Jammu and Kashmir to independent investigate the grave human rights violations being perpetrated by Indian forces,” the MOFA statement read.

Diplomatic tussle

Pakistan has escalated the diplomatic war over Kashmir since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani sparked a series of protests and violence in the valley, that has left more than 76 dead and hundreds injured. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who held a meeting on Monday to discuss his speech at the UNGA vowed to focus on the issue, even as Pakistan sent 22 special envoys to various countries to push for action against India. On September 11, Mr. Sharif’s envoy Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari had met with the Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein calling for an enquiry into Burhan Wani’s killing and the allegations of human rights violations under the UN charter, as well as an end to the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.

However, India said the demand for an “external mission” had been dismissed by the all-party conference that sent a delegation to Jammu and Kashmir.

“The high number of casualties sustained by Indian security forces is a reflection of the tremendous restraint they have displayed in difficult circumstances,” the MEA spokesperson said in the statement rejecting both Pakistan’s contentions and the UN Human Rights Chief’s demands to investigate in India.

The Hindu

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