By Prarthana Mitra
New United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made a rousing call in her first address to the Human Rights Council, for India and Pakistan to settle the dispute over Kashmir in accordance with the guidelines laid down by her predecessor.
At the 39th session of the UNHRC on Monday, she spoke on a number of raging issues concerning human rights violation all over the world that the peace-keeping organisation is keen to resolve, including the Rohingya genocide, Mediterranean refugee crisis, and the Syrian conflict.
What does UN’s Kashmir report say?
The former Chilean president, succeeding Zeid Raad al Hussain as the UNHRC chief, praised the Indian Supreme Court for decriminalising homosexuality before moving on to pressing matters regarding the human rights violations, as highlighted in the first ever UN report on the situation in Kashmir. The report, published in June, had made a request for unconditional access to Kashmir on either side of the Line of Control, with Zeid expressly seeking an “establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.” It also noted “allegations of widespread and serious human rights violation…notably excessive use of force by Indian security forces that led to numerous civilian casualties.”
Zeid has also asked the India and Pakistani governments to “fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law”, but India had dismissed the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated.”
“The report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression,” the Ministry of External Affairs is reported to have said in June.
According to the new Human Rights chief
Bachelet on Monday said, “The people of Kashmir have exactly the same rights to justice and dignity as people all over the world and we urge authorities to respect them,” as she resumed the request for unconditional access to Kashmir while the UNHRC continues to monitor and report. She, however, did not echo Zeid’s demand for an international probe.
“Our recent report on the human rights situation has not been followed up with meaningful improvements,” she reflected, “or even open and serious discussions on how the grave issues raised could be addressed.”
Bachelet on other human rights disputes
Then new UNHRC Chief called Donald Trump’s family separation and indefinite detention policy for immigrants “unconscionable.”
Urging European countries to tighten their search and rescue operation for migrants in the Mediterranean, Bachelet also directed the Council to expedite the analysis of evidence and trials for the perpetrators of Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Last month, the UN had asked for Myanmar’s army generals to be prosecuted for the extra-judicial killings and other crimes against the Muslims in Rakhine state, an allegation that has been consistently denied by the authorities.
The UN human rights chief also noted that the Sri Lankan government has set up the Office of Missing Persons and almost assembled the Office for Reparations. She also sought to launch a probe into the alleged ‘re-education’ camps in China, for Uighurs of the Xinjiang province. Bachelet has also urged Saudi Arabia to release wrongfully detained human rights activists and own up to war crimes including air-striking civilians in Yemen.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.