On 14 June, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the human-rights conditions in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan-Administered Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan. The report examines the conditions that have prevailed in the region following the killing of the militant leader Burhan Wani in July 2016 by Indian security forces, which triggered the fiercest protests the valley has seen since 2010. “Indian security forces responded to protests with force, which led to casualties and a wide range of alleged related human rights violations throughout the summer of 2016 and into 2018,” the OHCHR report noted. The report noted that the Indian security forces used “excessive force” that led to “unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries.” It added that laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, or AFSPA, and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978—or PSA—have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.” Despite accusations of abuse including sexual violence, in the nearly 20 years that the AFSPA has been in force, the report noted, “there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government.”
The OHCHR further called on the Indian authorities to, among other recommendations, “establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016,” as well as human-rights abuses committed by Indian security forces including the killing of minority Kashmiri Hindus; “to immediately order the end of the use of pellet-firing shotguns”; to “urgently repeal” the AFSPA; and to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law.” The OHCHR recommended that the United Nations Human Rights Council consider establishing a commission of inquiry to examine the human-rights violations in Kashmir.
This is the first-ever United Nations report on the conditions in Jammu and Kashmir. The report is based on “remote monitoring”—the OHCHR noted that despite requests to both India and Pakistan, it was not allowed access to the region in order to conduct an investigation. It based its findings on credible and verified information present in the public domain, including news reports, RTI responses, and statements by the government of India.
The Indian government has rejected the OHCHR’s findings. The ministry of external affairs termed the report “fallacious, tendentious and motivated,” and described it as a “selective compilation of largely unverified statements.” The MEA said that the report “violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Below are some extracts from the report’s observations on human-rights violations in the region, including the excessive use of force, illegal detention and torture.