UN rights chief ‘deeply concerned’ about Kashmir situation

Urges India to ease lockdown in her introductory address to Human Rights Council's session

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Staff Report

Geneva

 

The United Nations human rights chief on Monday said she was “deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions” by the Indian government on the human rights of Kashmiris.

In her introductory address for the start of the Human Rights Council’s latest session, Michelle Bachelet aired concerns over India’s actions against Kashmiris as well as unlawful killings and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli security forces.

On August 5, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped Kashmiris of the constitutional rights they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order. Since then, an indefinite curfew has been in place in occupied Kashmir while elected leaders are still under house arrest.

Bachelet, in her remarks on occupied Kashmir, said her office continues to receive reports on the human rights situation on both sides of the line of control. “I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists,” she said.

“While I continue to urge the governments of India and Pakistan to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews; to ensure people’s access to basic services; and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained,” she urged.

“It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future.”

The foreign minister had last month written to the UN human rights chief to call upon India to end rights abuses in occupied Kashmir.

Qureshi, in a letter addressed to Bachelet, had asked her to demand from India to “rescind its unilateral actions, lift the curfew and other draconian measures, and restore fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people”.

The rights chief, who is a former president of Chile, put her main focus on environmental concerns, calling variously for greater participation in the fight against climate change by businesses and greater space for environmental activists to express their views.

“We are burning up our future literally,” Bachelet said. “The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope. This is not a situation where any country, any institution, any policymaker can stand on the sidelines.”

Looking past personal criticism against her from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in recent days, Bachelet also reiterated her concerns about the “drastic acceleration of deforestation of the Amazon”.

“The fires currently raging across the rainforest may have catastrophic impact on humanity as a whole,” Bachelet said, “but their worst effects are suffered by the women, men and children who live in these areas, among them, many indigenous peoples.” She urged authorities in Brazil, as well as Paraguay and Bolivia, to ensure “longstanding environmental policies” are carried out, “thus preventing future tragedies”.