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UN High Commissioner for HR called upon India to ease Kashmir lockdowns

10 September, 2019

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday called upon India to ease the current lockdowns and curfew and ensure people’s access to basic services.

In her opening remarks at the start of the Human Rights Council’s latest session, Michelle Bachelet called for consulting and engaging the people of Kashmir in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future. “My office continues to receive reports on the human rights situation on both sides of the Line of Control,” she said in her statement at the session. “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,” the UN human rights chief said. “It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future,” she maintained.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had last month written to the UN human rights chief to call upon India to end rights abuses in the occupied valley. 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’.

Regarding situation in Assam, Bachelet said the recent National Register of Citizens verification process in the northeast Indian state has caused great uncertainty and anxiety, with some 1.9 million people excluded from the final list published on August 31. “I appeal to the government of India to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness,” she added.

“I continue to be alarmed by reports of unlawful killings and injuries of Palestinians by Israeli security forces across the entire occupied territory, accompanied by a lack of full accountability for instances of possible excessive use of force,” the UN human rights chief said. “Moreover, my office remains concerned that the targeting of human rights defenders – including with travel bans, delegitimising statements and reports, interrogation, detention and ill-treatment – by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza – has increased, resulting in further shrinking of civil society space,” she added.

As for Israel, whose government has repeatedly accused the council of anti-Israeli bias, Bachelet decried ‘very high levels of settler violence, and Israel’s failure to adequately protect Palestinians from such attacks or hold the perpetrators to account’. “In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the continued expansion of settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law, and has severe impact on the human rights of Palestinians,” she said. “I am particularly concerned by very high levels of settler violence, and Israel’s failure to adequately protect Palestinians from such attacks, or hold the perpetrators to account,” she continued. “Demolitions of homes have recently increased, under the Israeli zoning and planning framework which discriminates heavily against Palestinians. So far this year, at least 481 people have been displaced as a result of demolitions, already exceeding the 472 displaced in all of 2018,” she further said. “Settler violence, demolitions and forced evictions all contribute to an environment which coerces Palestinians to leave their homes. In this context, I also note with concern a number of recent calls by Israeli officials for annexation of all or part of the West Bank,” she added.

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