The United Nations Human Rights spokesperson has expressed “great concern” over the information blackout in occupied Kashmir which continued after its special status was scrapped by India earlier in the week.
In a statement shared on Wednesday via a video on Twitter, the spokesperson said that what had already been observed to be a pattern, was taken to a “new level” with the latest restrictions placed by India which he said “will exacerbate the human rights situation in the region”.
“I would refer you back to our July 8, 2019 report on the human rights situation in Kashmir which documented how authorities have repeatedly blocked communications networks to muzzle dissent, used arbitrary detention to punish political dissidents and employed excessive force while dealing with protests leading to extra judicial killings and serious injuries,” said the statement.
We are seeing again blanket telecommunications restrictions, perhaps more blanket than we have seen before, the reported arbitrary detention of political leaders and restrictions on peaceful assembly.
“These restrictions will prevent the people of [occupied] Kashmir and their elected representatives from participating fully in democratic debate about the future status of Jammu and Kashmir,” it observed.
The statement further noted that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — which had been ratified by India — “the right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information.”
The Human Rights spokesperson said that while states are allowed under Article 19 (3) of the Covenant to impose restrictions on certain grounds, including in the interest of “public order”, the committee which monitors and interprets the covenant “has warned that any such curbs must be necessary and proportionate and should not jeopardise the right itself”.
“The fact that hardly any information at all is currently coming out is of great concern in itself,” the statement concluded.
UN in contact with India, Pakistan
The United Nations is making contacts with India and Pakistan at “various levels” amid deteriorating situation between the two South Asian neighbour, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Responding to questions at the regular noon briefing in New York, spokesperson Stephane Dujarric denied that Guterres was reluctant to get involved in resolving the grave situation between the two nuclear-armed countries.
“There is no reluctance on the part of the secretary-general,” the spokesperson said. “We are very well aware and following the situation with a lot of concern.”
“Contacts are being had at various levels and we urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint,” he added. He did not specify at what level the contacts were taking place.
Replying to another question, Dujarric confirmed that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General had been received, and that it would be studied closely.
The letter, seeking UN intervention in resolving the crisis, would also be circulated to the 15 members of the Security Council, as requested, he said.