UN rights chief appeals to India, Pakistan for Kashmir access

The UN rights chief has appealed to India and Pakistan to grant his office access to Kashmir, citing “grave concerns” over alleged rights abuses across the disputed Himalayan region.

In a Wednesday statement, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), said he has been working to get observers to the parts of the Kashmir valley since violence flared there in July.

The UN official called it “unfortunate” that access has not been granted yet.

“I deeply regret that our requests for access have not been granted,” Zeid said, adding, “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 remarks come as the UN wants observers on the ground in Kashmir to interview victims, witnesses and security forces and to independently assess the situation.

“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 UN rights chief said, adding, “Without access, we can only fear the worst. I reiterate our request for access.”

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) recently asked the Indian government to allow investigators into the restive region to examine allegations of human rights violations during a heavy-handed crackdown.

According to a recent report by The Times of India, New Delhi will reject a UN request to send a team of investigators to the Muslim-majority region following a recent uptick in unrest which is the worst in the region since 2010.

The paper added that New Delhi has prepared a “carefully-worded” response letter to the UN request, saying that a visit by a UN Human Rights Council team is “not required.”

The letter has touched on “several measures the Indian government has taken to restore normalcy” in Kashmir and accused Pakistan of “overt role in aggravating the situation,” the daily said.

Indian troops take position inside a building after a gunfight in Srinagar, Kashmir, August 15, 2016. (AFP)

Clashes erupted in Indian-controlled Kashmir on July 8, when people protested against the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular pro-independence fighter, by Indian forces.

Over 60 people have so far been killed during clashes between protesters and Indian forces.

There are an estimated 500,000 Indian troops currently deployed in the restive territory. The country has imposed a curfew across large parts of the territory since July.

Kashmir lies at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute since India and Pakistan became independent in 1947.

New Delhi and Islamabad both claim the Himalayan region in full, but rule parts of it. The two countries have fought two wars over the disputed territory.

By Press TV