UNITED NATIONS – Human rights experts at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are concerned about the Kashmir situation but can have only a limited impact, according to Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard.
“The situation in Kashmir is a big concern for many of us within Special Procedures. But it is also a situation where we need to recognise that besides keeping the issue on the agenda, and besides denouncing the violation I am not sure that we at this point can be asked to have much more impact than that,” she said on Friday while replying a question at a news conference here.
“It doesn”t meant that we are giving up at all but it does mean that there are a number of actors that are probably better placed than Special Procedures to move the issue to a better situation,” she added.
Special Procedures of the OHCHR is the official name for its group of independent human rights experts with mandates over specific topics or areas.
Callamard is the rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
She said that during past month or so she communicated with Indian authorities about “killings but also violation of access to information, violation of freedom of expression and so on and so on”.
Responding to a reporter”s question about Kashmir she said: “I am just not sure that at the moment we have the strategic place for an impact on Kashmir. So what we got to do is to keep doing, to keep the issue on the agenda, make sure that we are continuing monitoring the situation, responding to the victims, trying to at least mediate somehow what is being the human cost of the situation.”
Callamard said that she had written to the Indian government giving specific details about victims and their perpetrators, but the quality of responses she received has been “poor” and “further gotten poor after the decision of the Indian government to transform the status of Kashmir”.
Asked about the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), she said: “I am aware of that, of the legal framework that allows detention without charges and so on and so forth… This has been on our agenda, this has been denounced.”
US religious freedom official looking into Kashmir
US Ambassador for Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback has said that he was looking into the citizenship issue in Assam and the situation in Kashmir and wanted to know more about them before raising it “in a constructive way”.
He did not directly respond to a reporter’s questions about the two situations at a news conference on Friday, saying only: “I want to know specifically more in cases like that and that is what we are looking factually into it today.”
“Any time a group of people are identified and then excluded based on faith is a matter of concern to us and to the global religious freedom community,” he said in general terms about Assam citizenship issue.
About 1.9 million people in Assam have not been included in the National Register of Citizens for the state that was published in August and they had 120 days to appeal their exclusion.
Many of them are said to be Muslims.
Hindus and other minorities like Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists who are not found to be citizens will be eligible for asylum in India.
The Pakistani journalist who asked the question said that Muslims were discriminated against.
About the general restrictions in Kashmir impacting people’s ability to pray in mosques, Brownback said: “We believe that people should be allowed to freely practice their faith wherever they are and whoever they all are as long as they are peacefully practising their faith.
“That applies everywhere all the time and I will be raising these issues. Again, these are things that we will try to get all the factual setting and then try to raise them in constructive ways whenever we can and however we can.”