When the United Nations Human Rights Office published a report on Kashmir earlier this year, calling for an inquiry into “multiple violations”, it evoked sharp rebuttals from the Indian administration. Among the questions raised about the report was: How was it framed without access to the region on either side of the Line of Control?
NDTV pitched the question recently to Maria Fernanda Espinosa, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, one of two most high-profile leaders of the UN, who said the issue had been addressed in the premises of the world body.
“It is a bilateral issue between two countries. We need to ensure that the fundamental right and the dignity of people, especially innocent civilians are taken care of. So, our concern is making sure that civilians are not affected and their lives, their well-being and their dignity are protected. So, we have to ensure that the human rights of people, especially in situations of conflicts, are preserved,” Ms Espinosa said in an exclusive interview just a month after taking charge of her office at the decision-making organ of the UN.
The 49-page report, the first ever of its kind on the decades-old conflict, released in June this year, called on India and Pakistan “to fully respect their international human rights law obligations in Kashmir. It asked India to urgently repeal the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that gives the military sweeping powers in its fight against terrorism, establish independent and credible investigations to probe civilian killings among other recommendations.
India had responded strongly describing the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated”.
The report itself stated: “From July 2016, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has on numerous occasions requested the Governments of India and Pakistan that his Office be given unconditional access to Kashmir to assess the human rights situation…”
While India rejected the request, Pakistan offered access only if the UN body was allowed access to Jammu and Kashmir, the report said.
“Without unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has undertaken remote monitoring of the human rights situation,” it said.
Based on the report, the UN’s Human Rights Commission boss Michelle Bachelett had asked India to “respect the self-determination of the people of Kashmir”. India had expressed its regrets over the comments.