#Day40: UNHRC Urges India, Pakistan To Grant Independent Observers Access to Kashmir

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A view of UNO Office Srinagar on wednesday 17 August 2016. Separatists have called for a 72 hour march to United Nations Office in srinagar PHOTO BY BILAL BAHADUR
A view of UNO Office Srinagar on Wednesday 17 August 2016. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on Wednesday expressed deep regret at the “failure” of Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant the UN Human Rights Office access to two parts of Jammu and Kashmir, “given grave concerns about recent allegations of serious human rights violations”.

A statement posted by UNHRC on its website from Geneva said, “since the latest outbreak of violence in early July, High Commissioner Zeid has been engaging with both Indian and Pakistani authorities and has sought access for a team to visit both Indian-Administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir to independently and thoroughly look into and verify allegations of violations of international law to be able to establish the facts accurately, particularly given the conflicting and competing claims on both sides.”

Notably, Kashmir Life had reported on August 12, 2016 – the day PM Modi chaired All Party Meet (APM) on Kashmir in New Delhi where the letter by UNHRC addressed to Union Ministry of External Affairs was discussed.

Sources had revealed that a letter dated July 19, 2016 was received by MEA. However, the APM unanimously declined to allow such a team to visit Kashmir but Hyderabad MP, Assad Uddin Owaisi had objected to this decision arguing that after Delhi took Nepal’s human rights case to UN and “it should have no objection in allowing the UNHRC team to visit Kashmir.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UNHRC
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UNHRC

“I deeply regret that our requests for access have not been granted. Given the seriousness of the allegations of the use of excessive force, allegations of state sponsorship of violence, as well as the number of people killed and the very large number of people injured, the continuing unrest and the almost daily reports of violence in the region, it is unfortunate that our sincere attempts to independently assess the facts in relation to reports of human rights violations have failed,” the High Commissioner said.

“We requested full and unhindered access to the affected population, to interview a variety of individuals on the ground, including victims, witnesses, security forces, and with access to relevant documentation. Such access would enable us to provide an independent and fact-based analysis of the situation, which is so crucial in volatile, politically-charged situations,” the statement added.

“Without access, we can only fear the worst,” Zeid added. “I reiterate our request for access.”

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