India has formally conveyed to the Geneva-based UN body Human Rights Council (HRC) that it is cutting off all contact with its Special Rapporteurs following the release of a critical report highlighting alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, which was reported on May 21.
The report from the UN body came at the same time another report from two NGOs in the Jammu and Kashmir State on the alleged cases of torture was released in Srinagar, which was endorsed by a former UN Special Rapporteur. This report, titled ‘Torture: Indian State’s Instrument of Control in J&K’, and prepared by two NGOs – the J&K based Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and the J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) – consists of 560 pages and documents 32 cases of alleged human rights violations and brutality by Indian security forces, of which only 27 had been investigated by the State Human Rights Commission.
Three special rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) have written to India asking for details on steps taken to punish or provide justice to victims and their next of kin in 76 cases of torture and arbitrary killing in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.
The letter to the Indian government, dated March 18, is written by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Dainius Puras and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer.
The letter was made public on the UNHRC website on May 18 after a scheduled interval of 60 days, along with India’s reply that refused to provide any clarifications.
The letter relates to 76 cases of torture and killings of civilians, which include 13 just in 2018. These 2018 cases included eight civilian killings allegedly by security forces and the rest by militants.
“In all these cases, the authorities have reportedly failed to conduct thorough, prompt and impartial investigations, so as to ensure that the rule of law prevails, and justice is done and steps are taken to ensure the non-recurrence of the violations,” wrote the three officials.
Reminding that the Human Rights Council had given them the mandate to seek clarifications from members, the letter asks New Delhi to provide details on at least eight issues, ranging from the outcome of the investigation into the cases to the steps taken to repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act.
In the letter, the three UN Special Rapporteurs also referred to a June 2018 report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), asking about steps taken by New Delhi to address the alleged human rights violations listed in the report. India had rejected the 2018 OHCHR report on the ‘Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir’ — the first-ever such report on Jammu and Kashmir that came out in June 2018 — and accused the High Commissioner of Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of “clear bias” in bringing it out.
Continuing on that theme, India has also rejected the latest UNHRC report in a letter dated April 23, saying that “India rejects any reference whether implicit or explicit or any quote by any human rights mechanisms or bodies from the remote report published by the OHCHR on the situation of human rights in Kashmir in June 2018, India rejects the remote report and doubts on its credibility and objectivity. The Report begets the question of whether individual prejudices should be allowed to undermine the dignity and standing of the high ofﬁce.”
Asserting that the report was “false and motivated”, India said that it was now a “closed chapter”. Asserting that terrorism is the “grossest violation”, India stated that basic human right of “right to life is being constantly violated by cross border terrorism in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir”. “The heinous terrorist attack on a convoy in Pulwama in February 2019 has only served to underline the criticality of addressing the issue of cross-border terrorism,” said the reply from the Permanent Mission of India to UN offices in Geneva.
Interestingly, the UN Special Rapporteurs did mention the February 2019 Pulwama attack in the initial paragraphs of the letter. “We would like at the outset strongly condemn the suicide bomb attack against Indian security forces in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019, which reportedly killed over 40 members of the Central Reserve Police Force,” they said.
The Indian response went on to say that, “India takes serious objection to using the already rejected report by the mandate holders that issued the communication AL IND 8/2019 dated 18 March 2019 to raise allegations against India. India, therefore, does not intend to engage further with these mandate holders or any other mandate holders on this issue.”
When asked by the Indian media, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs clarified that India’s stand on not engaging with the Special Rapporteurs was only for those wishing to refer to the OHCHR report.
However, UN officials say that India is already in contravention of several Conventions it has committed to, including a “Standing Invitation” signed in 2011 to all special rapporteurs to visit India. According to the UN records, more than 20 such visit requests, including to Jammu and Kashmir, are pending at present. UN sources also said that between 2016-2018, the OHCHR Special Rapporteurs had sent as many as 58 communications, and had received no response other than the April 23 letter on Jammu and Kashmir.