UN Defends Bachelet's Comments On Kashmir

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‘Will Always Protect The Identity Of Vulnerable Witnesses And Victims Everywhere’

Srinagar: Days after India rejected UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) Michelle Bachelet's comments on restrictive measures in Kashmir as “unwarranted and far from reality” , a senior UNHCR official said on Thursday that the rights body will never side with India or Pakistan on Kashmir.

"We will never side with India or Pakistan on Kashmir. But our job is to protect the vulnerable and take the perspective of the victim." Craig Mokhiber, director of the New York office of Bachelet, told NDTV on Thursday.

Mokhiber’s comments came days after India took strong exception to Bachelet’s remarks that "restrictive measures in Kashmir can result in human rights violations and foster further tensions and discontent". She had also described India's use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as well as "frequent" temporary communication blackouts in Kashmir as "worrying".

Hitting back, India had said that Bachelet's comments on the circumstances in Kashmir are "unwarranted and do not reflect the ground reality."

"India's approach to global promotion and protection of human rights is based on our own experience as a pluralistic and inclusive society and vibrant democracy. Any shortcomings in upholding human rights must be addressed in a transparent and impartial manner, anchored in respect for national sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of States," top diplomat Reenat Sandhu had said at the meeting of the Human Rights Council on September 14.

According to the NDTV report, Mokhiber said that there's an old notion of sovereignty that has been replaced by the evolution of the UN. He also said that the old notion of sovereignty is that anything that happens within our borders it is up to the government and it's no one else's business.

“What the UN Charter did is that you have a binding treaty, a binding law for every country that is a member of the UN. What the UN Charter did was that it internationalized human rights for all of the members of the UN," he said

"It is the responsibility of the government. To claim sovereignty you have a job to make sure that you ensure freedom from fear for your people all over the country," he added.

Terming Kashmir as a difficult issue because of the tensions between India and Pakistan and the roles that each of the nations play in the international community, Mokhiber said the UN Human Right Office "will always protect the identity of vulnerable witnesses and victims everywhere".

"When we insert ourselves into a country's current situation, we don't want to make the lives of people worse. We hopefully want to make it better but everything that we've done...we do it in full consultation with the governments that are involved sometimes. It is the governments that don't want to cooperate with us. But we are always bending over backwards to cooperate with them," he added.

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