India on Tuesday voiced regret over comments by the UN’s human rights commissioner on the situation in Kashmir, terming the reference as “unwarranted and factually inaccurate”.
In a statement at the General Debate on the Oral Update by High Commissioner during the 52nd Session of Human Rights Council, Permanent Representative of India to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey also asserted that New Delhi does not see any role for the human rights commissioner office’s in matters that are the country’s internal affairs.
“We take note of the oral update and thank the High Commissioner. Since the constitutional changes in August 2019, there has been unprecedented progress in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, in taking democracy to the grassroots, enhancing people’s participation in political processes, providing good governance and security to the people and accelerating all round socio-economic development,” Mr Pandey said.
“In this context, we regret the High Commissioner’s unwarranted and factually inaccurate portrayal of the human rights situation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Let me reiterate that the matters pertaining to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are an internal affair of India and we do not see any role for the OHCHR in it,” he added.
Earlier in the day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said he has had the opportunity to discuss the “worrying human rights” situation in Kashmir with both India and Pakistan in recent months.
Turk also said progress on human rights, and justice for the past, will be key to advancing security and development. “I will continue to explore how my Office can assist, including through meaningful access to the region,” Turk said in his global update to the UN Human Rights Council.
On China, Turk said the UN Human Rights office has documented grave concerns – notably large-scale arbitrary detentions and ongoing family separations – and has made important recommendations that require concrete follow-up.
He said his office has opened up channels of communication with a range of actors to follow up on a variety of human rights issues, including the protection of minorities, such as for the Tibetans, Uyghurs and other groups.
“We also have concerns about the severe restrictions of civic space more generally, including the arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and lawyers; and the impact of the National Security Law in Hong Kong,” he added.
Referring to the situation in Afghanistan in the global update, he said the repression of women in the country is “unparalleled, contravening every established belief system”.
In the United States, he noted that people of African descent are reportedly almost three times more likely to be killed by police than are “white” people.
He referred to the “brutal death” of a 29-year-old Black man Tyre Nichols in Memphis two months ago, saying this tragic incident stood out not just because of the severity of the violence caught on tape, but because it was followed by immediate action to prosecute the officers involved, while generally only a fraction of such cases lead to those responsible being brought to justice.
In Sri Lanka, he said debilitating debt, and economic crisis, have sharply restricted people’s access to fundamental economic and social rights. Recovery policies will need to redress inequalities, and invest in social protections and other levers of economic resilience.
Turk also voiced regret over the “increasing incidence of political violence” in Bangladesh coupled with arbitrary arrests of political activists, and ongoing harassment of human rights defenders and media personnel in the build-up to the elections this year.
Human Rights Watch has noted that Bangladesh authorities are using the “abusive Digital Security Act” to harass and indefinitely detain activists, journalists, and others critical of the government and its political leadership.
Turk stressed that the world faces the “compounding effects” of crises such as conflict, discrimination, poverty, restrictions on civic space and attacks against climate activists. “We face all of these crises – while also confronting a surge of new human rights challenges, notably in the digital realm and involving artificial intelligence and surveillance. Fresh thinking, political leadership, renewed commitments, and dramatically scaled-up financing — with the centrality of human rights at their core — are urgently needed to meet these challenges,” he said.