Take A Close Look At J&K Detainees, UN Tells India

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Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General – File Pic

United Nations: The United Nations on Monday asked India to take a very close look at the detainees in Jammu and Kashmir and reduce overcrowding in prisons to prevent catastrophic rates of COVID-19 infection.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Monday said that the UN chief “believes that member states need to take a very close look at incarcerations during a time of COVID-19. It’s something the High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken out about.”

Dujarric was responding to a question about the release of prisoners in Kashmir.

He added, “As for the situation in Kashmir, he (Secretary General) very much believes that any political solution must take into consideration the issue of human rights.”

Last week, Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed to prevent “catastrophic” rates of infection, as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases continues to rise worldwide.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, had also said recently in Geneva that some countries have been announcing prisoner releases of varying numbers, including of specific at-risk groups such as pregnant women, people with disabilities, elderly prisoners, those who are sick, minor and low-risk offenders, people nearing the end of their sentences and others who can safely be reintegrated into society.

He noted that Iran has increased releases to around 100,000 inmates — representing 40 per cent of the entire prison population — and that Indonesia has announced that it would free 30,000 individuals convicted of minor crimes, including drug use.

“And we understand India and Turkey are similarly considering or in the process of releasing a large number of inmates,” he said.

“We urge states to release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views,” Colville said.

“We stress that with respect to people fairly convicted of serious crimes recognised under international law, or prisoners who might pose serious risk to others, they should only exceptionally be considered for temporary release from custody during the course of the pandemic,” he said.

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