Human Rights in India: Debated at the Palais des Nations

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International Council for Human Rights with its ECOSOC partner International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM) hosted a roundtable and interactive dialogue – Human Rights in India: Convention against Torture and International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances at the Palais Des Nations – Geneva as a side event to the India UPR at the 21st Session of the UN Human Rights Council.  Dr Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference was the keynote speaker at the roundtable.  He was joined by Barrister A Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR and Permanent Representative of IHRAAM at the UN, Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawl, Chairman of Kashmir Centre London, Dr Ishtiyaq Ahmed, Professor at the Oxford University and Choudhry Pervaiz Ashraf, Cabinet Minister of the AJK Government.  

Opening the Roundtable, the Keynote Speaker Dr Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq expressed his deep concern on the human rights situation in India particularly referring to the deplorable situation of Dalits, Adivasis, violence against women and religious minorities specifically referring to the recent Assam violence in which, hundreds of Muslims were brutally assaulted and murdered.

Referring to the gruesome situation on the human rights front in Indian Held Kashmir, he expressed his anguish on the continued human rights violations under the garb of draconian black laws such as the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act and the Public Safety (Jammu & Kashmir) Act which, give complete impunity to the Indian armed forces operating in Jammu & Kashmir from being prosecuted for their gruesome crimes in any court.  He lamented that even the Indian National Human Rights Commission has no access to intervene to the complaints made against the armed forces personnel.  He further stated that consequently such impunity leads to grave human rights abuses including extra judicial killings, fake encounters, violence against women and children and disappearances.  He revealed that the Indian State Human Rights Commission has reported that there were more than 3000 nameless and mass graves existing in various parts of Indian Held Kashmir.  He regretted that recently the State chief Secretary rejected holding of any investigation on mass graves despite the European Parliament and the UN working Group on Involuntary and Enforced Disappearances have called for an Independent and impartial investigation.  He therefore considers the ratifications of CAT and International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the revocation of AFSPA and PSA crucial. 

He indicated that there is growing interference from the Indian forces to stall political processes in IHK.  Mirwaiz found it incredible that the country, which claims to be the largest democracy in the world allow the military interference not to move the peace process on Kashmir forward.  He stated that India is living in the state of denial, which is neither allowing the Kashmir centric dialogue nor improving the human rights situation in IHK.  

Barrister A Majid Tramboo, provided detailed information on the India UPR processes with which UN Human Rights Council is engaged at this stage.  He emphasised that torture is the basis, which lead to other gruesome human rights violations such as deaths in custody, disappearances, fake encounters, sexual violence and injuring and maiming individuals.  He expressed his astonishment that whereas India has signed CAT in 1997 but has failed to ratify this convention till to date.  He considers that the recommendations made on the ratification of CAT by considerable number of states during the working group’s proceedings are crucial and should be adopted by the UN HRC in the upcoming India UPR session.  Barrister Tramboo equally considered the ratification of International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances of paramount importance.  He stressed that the ratification of this convention will compel the Government of India to investigate the nameless and mass graves found in Indian Held Kashmir.  He referred to the ICHR Kashmir Report 2012 – “Human Rights in Flames” which documents torture and disappearance related incidents.  He appealed to the UN HRC to incorporate the Kashmir specific recommendations as found in the report.  

Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawl, stated that this is India UPR year, which is directly concerned with the people of Indian Held Kashmir.  He commented that Indian Held Kashmir is the most militarised state on the globe.  He regretted that despite human rights institution like Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Human Rights Council and its various special procedures, the reign of terror continues in IHK.  He asked India to accept the fate accompali in terms that the people of Kashmir demand there right to self-determination, which means that its an indigenous movement and that it should stop dub this movement as cross border terrorism.  He believes that permanent peace in South Asia region is possible only if the Kashmir issue is resolved between India and Pakistan and the people of Jammu & Kashmir across the ceasefire line.  Professor Shawl emphasised on the UNHRC to adopt all the recommendations put forward by the working group on UPR.

Dr Ishtiyaq Ahmed, described India as a country, which has enormous cast based and religious minorities issues.  These issues, he stated, lead to the denial of freedom concerning civil and political rights.  Besides, Dr Ahmed suggests that there are many separatist movements in India particularly in North East India.  He referred to the situation of Assam which he said may be ruled by Indian forces during day times but it is certainly controlled by Naxalites during nights. Therefore, Dr Ahmed indicated, that brute force is applied both in public places and detention centres in a desperate bid to quell such separatist movements.  He suggested whatever the situation may be but there is no excuse for human rights violations.  He further stated that India for the last three decades has not deliberately ratified any UN instrument and does not allow the UN Human Rights Committee to get involved for investigation purposes into its gross human rights violations across India. 

Choudhry Pervaiz Ashraf in his presentation raised the issue of self-determination as enacted in Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Convention on Civil and political Rights and linked it with the UN Security Council resolutions on Jammu & Kashmir. Whereas he welcomed that over the years through the processes of decolonization many countries achieved freedoms and countries such as East Timor, South Sudan and many more achieved their independence through the exercise of their right to self-determination but the state of Jammu & Kashmir is awaiting the implementation of the UN resolutions since 1948.  He declared that whereas the AJK Government support India and Pakistan dialogue but at the same time the people of AJK will always standby the people of IHK.  

The Roundtable concluded by calling upon the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to take all the necessary steps in implementing the UN Kashmir resolutions and the protection and promotion of their human rights. 

Following the Roundtable, a public demonstration was held outside the offices of the United Nations as a reminder to the UN about its obligation towards the people of Jammu & Kashmir in the implementation of their right to self-determination.  

In solidarity with the people of Indian Held Kashmir, Kashmir Centre EU installed a military tent at the famous Palace des Nations in form of an exhibition dedicated to the India UPR 2012 with specific reference to revoke AFSPA and all other Black Laws and to hold an independent and impartial investigation on disappearances and graves.  The tent exhibition was officially declared open for public by Dr. Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq in presence of Barrister A Majid Tramboo.

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