London/Brussels; 18 April 2020: All Parties Group on Kashmir – European Parliament (APGK-EP) and Organisation of Kashmir Coalition (OKC) organised COVID-19 KASHMIR CONFERENCE via video link in which Politicians, Academics, Jurists, Human Rights Defenders and Journalists participated. Among others, who took part in the conference included:
Professor Klaus Buchner (MEP) – President, All Parties Group on Kashmir–European Parliament (APGK–EP); President Carles Puigdemont (MEP) of Catalonia, Member of APGK; Professor Alfred de Zayas – First (former) Independent Expert on the Promotion of Democratic and Equitable International Order – Professor of Law and History at Geneva University, Having practised law with a New York Law Firm; Senator Mushaid Hussain Syed – Currently Member of the Pakistan Senate and Chairman of Pakistan Senate Foreign Affairs Committee; Prime Minister (former) Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan – Kashmiri Politician who served as Prime Minister of AJK twice and patron of All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference; Sarah Owen, Member of the British Parliament, MP – Labour Party Politician and Trade Unionist; Julie Ward, Former Member of the European Parliament – A British Politician who served as member of the European Parliament for the North West England from 2014-2020; Professor Nazir Ahmed Shawl – Executive Member of OKC; Authored a Number of Books including his collection of poems “Speaking Silence”; Professor Josep-Lluis Alay – Associate Professor of Asian History at the Faculty of Geography and History, University of Barcelona; Professor William Schabas – Specialist in International Criminal and Human Rights Law and a serving Professor of International Law at Middlesex University; Victoria Schofield – Author and Historian; Her main area of research has been the conflict of Jammu and Kashmir; Shamim Shawl – Permanent Representative to the United Nations, IMWU; Graham Williamson – Chairman, Nations Without States, Supporting a Nations Right to Self-Determination; Frank Schwalba-Hoth – Founding Member of the German Greens and one of the first Green members Parliament in Germany and in the European Parliament; Dr. Asif Dar – A Kashmiri activist and Human Rights Defender, by profession a Doctor of Medicine; Altaf H Wani – Chairman, KIIR; Waqar Malik – PAK Media Centre, EU; Abdul Latif Bhatt – Kashmir Watch; M. Ashraf Wani – APP, a News Agency; Zulfiqar Ali – A well-known journalist and author who worked for the BBC for 20 years; Shaista Safi – TV Anchor and Kashmiri Youth Activist; and Barrister A Majid Tramboo – Executive Member of Organisation of Kashmir Coalition (OKC) and IHRAAM Permanent Representative to the United Nations
The common thread of all the presentations was expressed in terms that India unashamedly is using Covid-19 guise to persist reign of terror in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir with its iron fist; arbitrary arrests and detentions (including political leadership and civil society leadership), enforcing demographic change and limited internet services with no 4G. The Conference unanimously adopted the following JOINT STATEMENT:
JOINT STATEMENT: SITUATION IN INDIAN ADMINISTERED JAMMU AND KASHMIR (IAJK) DURING THIS COVID-19 PANDEMIC PERIOD!
- We agreed to organise and to hold a Covid-19 Kashmir Conference via video link to take stock of happenings in IAJK on the ground. We have in the past over the years either followed the conflict or have been a part of it. Individually, we made recommendations, advised the international community and undertook concrete proposals to overcome the deadlock in that territory in the Himalayas. We continue to advocate that pertinent United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir must be implemented, as well as the recommendations contained in the 2018 and 2019 Reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- Now we want to bring together our knowledge, our experiences, our aspirations, our ideas and our proposals to ensure that the fundamental human rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are protected and promoted and their right to self-determination realized, as stipulated in Article 1 common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
- We know that the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is not the only burning subject in international politics, but we shall continue to undertake all such measures to maintain the Jammu & Kashmir conflict higher on the agenda at the international fora.
- We are conscious that the crisis around Covid-19 Pandemic is overshadowing all other pressing issues worldwide. Therefore, we are especially concerned, during these unprecedented times, that the Indian authorities are using the Pandemic to silence Kashmiri voices by eradicating Kashmiri leadership and demoralising and destroying civil society. We call for international solidarity in joining forces to resolve the Covid-19 crisis and endorse the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Solidarity/DraftDeclarationRightInternationalSolidarity.pdf
- We are concerned that the Indian constitution was modified in order to change the status of Jammu & Kashmir (allowing a demographic development to convert Kashmiris into a minority in their own land and the process has already began) and that IAJK is sealed off since 5th August 2019 including internet shutdown – nonetheless, information has been managed out that most of the political and civil society key leaders have been arrested or put under house arrest. We are filled with consternation that those imprisoned are exposed to other prisoners affected by Covid-19.
- We note with satisfaction that the United Nations Secretary General has asked the Indian authorities to release the Kashmiri leaders and other political prisoners.
- We urge other international institutions to join and to support the efforts of the United Nations.
- We urge the European Parliament to continue with their strong involvement (through Urgency Resolutions, Initiative Reports including physically sending official delegations to both parts of Jammu & Kashmir, Global Discourses, Exhibitions) in overcoming the conflict.
- We urge the European Union, via its European External Action Service (EEAS), to use their direct and indirect diplomatic channels to underline that any trade agreement will not be achieved, if the human rights situation (and especially the situation of those prisoners) is worsening and that India through sheer force attempts to implement its planned demographic change contrary to international law and the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir. Further, we urge the Organization of Islamic Co-Operation (OIC) to take all such diplomatic initiatives that would promote and protect Kashmiris human rights and lead to the resolution of the conflict.
- We urge the Indian government to allow international organizations to evaluate those prison conditions and to urgently prepare the conditions under which the detained Kashmiri leaders and other political prisoners can be freed.
- We urge the Indian government to restore complete internet services including 4G.
- We urge the three sides – India, Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir – to take concrete steps to enter into direct negotiations at a neutral location – Geneva – within the next 12 months.
THIS JOINT STATEMENT IS ADOPTED ON FRIDAY, 17 APRIL 2020 AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE COVID-19 KASHMIR CONFERENCE HELD VIRTUALLY.
Prof Klaus Buchner (MEP) intends to forward the above joint statement to the Secretary General of the United Nations, President of the European Commission, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, President of the European Parliament, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Co-Operation, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister of Pakistan.
APGK-EP and OKC have expressed their deep gratitude to all the participants to have participated in the Covid-19 Kashmir Conference during this epidemic period standing in solidarity with the people of Jammu & Kashmir in these challenging times.