A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] said Tuesday that Zeid is “seriously concerned” about human rights violations in India-administered Jammu and Kashmir [UN News Centre report]. Rupert Colville, the spokesperson from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website], released the press briefing [text] and also urged India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, partially stemming from recent reports of ceasefire violations. The UN has held a position in the region for decades, and the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) [official website] has reported on ceasefire violations since 1971. Colville reiterated the UN’s desire to assist in de-escalating the situation, asking for free access to the regions in both countries in order to monitor all aspects of human rights.
Pakistan has been under pressure to improve human rights conditions for years, and Kashmir [BBC profile] has long been a subject of international concern. At the end of September, Human Rights Watch reported that Pakistani police are committing serious human rights abuses [JURIST report] and called for a complete overhaul of the country’s police system. Also in September authorities in Kashmir re-arrested a human rights advocate [JURIST report] under color of a controversial security law, the Public Safety Act, which allows the detention of suspects for up to six months without a trial. In August the India branch of Amnesty International temporarily closed its office after the organization was accused of sedition and anti-India sentiments [JURIST report]. Earlier in August Zeid expressed his concerns [JURIST report] regarding Indian and Pakistani authorities refusing to allow the Human Rights Council access to Kashmir. In July Pakistani Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz [official profile] announced his country’s intention to ask the UN Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to Kashmir following recent civil unrest in the disputed region. Pakistan accused [JURIST report] India of human rights violations after a clash between the Indian army and pro-independence rebels, which led to the death of militant commander Burhan Wani of the group Hizbul Mujahideen [official website]. Continued unrest following the clash preceded the use of force on which Pakistan now seeks Human Rights Council action.