Major Legal Changes In J&K Generating Deep Anxiety: UNHCHR

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet – File Pic

‘Rights To Freedom Of Expression And Association Curtailed In Pak Kashmir Too’

Srinagar: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet on Monday expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir saying that government of India’s August 5 move followed by domicile laws were generating deep anxiety among the people across Jammu and Kashmir.

In her inaugural statement at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council on Monday, Michelle alleged that in Kashmir, incidents of military and police violence against civilians continue, including use of pellet guns, as well as incidents related to militancy.

“It has been more than a year since my last report on both Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Major legal changes – including to the Constitution and domicile rules – are generating deep anxiety, but the space for political debate and public participation continues to be severely restricted, particularly since new media rules have prohibited vaguely defined “anti-national” reporting,” she said.

While welcoming the release of some political and community leaders, Michelle said that hundreds of people remain in arbitrary detention, with many habeas corpus petitions still pending – including those of many of Jammu and Kashmir’s political leaders.

“I welcome the initiatives to extend services to remote areas, and the recent conditional restoration of full Internet connectivity in two districts – which should be applied promptly to the rest of Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.

Speaking about the Pak-controlled Kashmir, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that people there also have limited Internet access, creating difficulties in accessing education and other vital services.

“I remain concerned about ongoing restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression and association. My office is committed to continuing its engagement with both India and Pakistan, to uphold the rights of the Kashmiri people – which is the best way to prevent further tensions and conflict,” she added.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also highlighted the grim situation in Afghanistan.

The statement said, “In Afghanistan, the human cost of conflict remains unacceptably high with some 3,500 civilian casualties this year, and continuing attacks on healthcare facilities and personnel – a situation that is severely exacerbated by COVID-19”.
It added, “With the formal start of intra-Afghan peace talks on 12 September, I reinforce the call for an immediate reduction in violence, a humanitarian pause, and the need for victim-centered justice and inclusion of marginalised groups’ concerns”.

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