UN rights chief seeks ‘full and unhindered’ access to Valley, PcK

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Geneva: The UN human rights chief has urged India and Pakistan to grant "full and unhindered" access to Kashmir given the recent allegations of human rights violations stating that without access "we can only fear the worst".

"I deeply regret that our requests for access have not been granted," the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement on 17 August.

"Given the seriousness of the allegations of the use of excessive force, allegations of state sponsorship of violence, as well as the number of people killed and the very large number of people injured, the continuing unrest and the almost daily reports of violence in the region, it is unfortunate that our sincere attempts to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations have failed," he said.

The UN rights chief said that he has been engaging with both Indian and Pakistani authorities since July for access for a team comprising independent observers to visit both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

The team would look into violations of international humanitarian law, through interviews with affected individuals including victims, witnesses, security forces, "given the conflicting and competing claims on both sides".

The Kashmir Valley has seen violent clashes between security forces and civilians after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was shot dead in an encounter nearly six weeks ago.

The latest clashes on 16 August resulted in the killing of five civilians, including two teenagers and injuring 15 others taking the death toll to 70 since 8 July when unrest broke out after Wani was killed.

Many protesters have also been injured by pellet guns drawing widespread condemnation from various quarters.

Businesses, shops and schools have remained closed due security lockdowns called by protesters and curfew imposed by the administration.

The situation has also escalated a war of words between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

“Such access would enable us to provide an independent and fact-based analysis of the situation, which is so crucial in volatile, politically-charged situations,” the High Commissioner said.

“Without access, we can only fear the worst. I reiterate our request for access,” Zeid said.

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