The UN independent human rights experts, also known as Special Procedures or mandate-holders, constitute an important pillar of the UN Human Rights system. Within their respective work areas, they have been mandated to act on reported incidents as well as patterns of human rights violations in a specific country or territory by sending communications/letters to the concerned country. They also engage in advocacy and awareness-raising about these violations through issuing public reaction/press releases and highlighting them in their annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council as well as the UN General Assembly, where applicable.
The UN experts have been documenting, remotely monitoring and publicly expressing their grave concerns over systematic and widespread abuses of Kashmiri people’s fundamental rights and freedoms at hands of Indian occupation forces.
The UN mandate-holders have dispatched numerous joint letters to India, voicing their deep concerns over the flagrant and multi-dimensional human rights violations, being perpetrated by Indian forces against Kashmiri people with complete impunity, under cover of enabling draconian laws.
In these letters, India has been asked to explain and justify legal grounds for these multiple and serious human rights transgressions in light of its international human rights obligations and commitments. India has only responded to one of the five letters.
A brief description of seven of these communications, sent by mandate-holders in wake of India's illegal actions of 05 August 2019 and made public by the UN, is given below:
In their joint letter dated 16 August 2019, six prominent UN mandate-holders expressed their deep concerns over the severe restrictions on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly; enforced disappearances; and widespread arbitrary arrests and detention of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders and boys/teenagers during night raids since India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 05th August. They also voiced their strong concerns over reported violations of Kashmiri people’s fundament right to life due to use of force, including live ammunition, by Indian forces as well as the adverse human rights effects of the complete internet and communication shutdown.
In a second joint letter dated 27 February 2020, five UN Special Procedures conveyed their grave concerns to India over arbitrary detention, as well as the deteriorating health condition while in detention of Mr. Miyan Abdul Qayoom, a human rights lawyer and President of Jammu& Kashmir High Court Bar Association. They indicated that Mr. Qayoom’s detention was an act of reprisal by India for his opinions and human rights work and advocacy in IIOJ&K.
In the third joint letter dated 04 May 2020, four UN experts relayed their deep concerns to India over the continued deterioration of human rights conditions in IIOJ&K since 05 August 2019, in particular citing specific cases of continued arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, custodial torture and ill-treatment, and death in custody, especially targeting Kashmiri Muslims.
In the fourth joint letter dated 12 May 2020, three UN mandate-holders expressed their deep disappointment over criminal proceedings and investigations initiated by Indian authorities under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against four renowned Kashmiri journalists, Mr. Gowher Geelani; Ms. Masrat Zahra; Mr. Naseer Ganai; and Mr. Peerzada Ashiq, due to their coverage of the post-05 August situation in IIOJ&K. They warned that these cases suggest a pattern of silencing independent reporting of the situation in IIOJ&K through criminal sanction.
In the fifth joint letter dated 01 July 2020, nine UN mandate-holders expressed deep concerns over the ‘deliberate, undue and unreasonable delay’ on the part of Indian authorities to conduct prompt, effective, and thorough investigations into hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, affecting mainly Kashmiri Muslims. In this connection, they expressed particular alarm over the scale and geographic spread of the unmarked and mass graves in north Kashmir. The UN experts further voiced serious concerns over the sudden and unexplained closure of Jammu & Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) as a deeply negative development, leaving Kashmiri people with limited legal recourse to seek justice for human rights violations committed by Indian forces against them. They warned that with the dissolution of SHRC, as well as the continued internet restrictions, the already problematic human rights situation in IIOJ&K will continue to deteriorate further.
In the sixth JOINT LETTER DATED 22 DECEMBER 2020, seven leading UN mandate-holders expressed deep concerns over the intimidations, searches and confiscations committed during raids in October 2020 by Indian forces with Kashmiri human rights activists/journalists (including Parveena Ahangar, Khurram Parvez and Parvaiz Ahmad Bukhari), and NGOs (Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), Athrout, and the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS)) as its primary targets due to their active advocacy against new illegal land laws, introduced in the disputed territory They noted with concern over the increasing use of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to regulate the activities of human rights defenders and journalists in IIOJ&K. They warned that these events represent "a pattern of silencing independent reporting on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir through the threat of criminal sanction and penalization of journalists critical of the Indian Government".
In the seventh JOINT LETTER DATED 10 FEBRUARY 2021, five leading UN mandate-holders have expressed grave concerns over the new Domicile Rules, which, they have warned, ‘may alter the demographic composition’ of IIOJ&K, and result in ‘political disenfranchisement’ of the Kashmiri people, undermining their basic rights, including ‘linguistic, cultural and religious rights’. They have warned that ‘the process of awarding domicile certificates to individuals from outside J&K appears to be excessively simplified, with little or no scope of verification, to the point that it is easier for individuals outside J&K to obtain a domicile certificate than a long-standing resident’. The mandate-holders have further deplored that unilateral modification of local laws pertaining to the sale and ownership of land are ‘discriminatory’ against Kashmiris and would ‘further deteriorate the overall human rights situation’ in IIOJ&K. Indian Government’s decision to notify any area as ‘strategic’ for development by Indian army in the region, the experts apprehend, would increase military presence, heightening risk of human rights violations.
In the eighth JOINT LETTER DATED 31 MARCH 2021, five prominent UN mandate-holders have expressed grave concerns over the arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment committed by Indian forces against Kashmiri activist Mr. Waheed Para, Mr. Irfan Ahmad Dar and Mr. Naseer Ahmad Wani. In case of Mr. Para, they have spotlighted that the above repressive measures clearly constitute act of reprisals, following his engagement on 30 July 2020 with the UN Security Council members and denunciation of India’s human rights violations in IIOJ&K. The mandate-holders have also strongly condemned extra-judicial killing of Mr. Dar by Indian forces with full impunity. In case of Mr. Wani, the communication documents in harrowing detail harassment and intimidation of the affected family, especially female members, by Indian forces during and after his forced abduction. The mandate-holders have concluded that the above three cases are part of ‘the broader pattern of systematic infringements of human rights’ of Kashmiri people, being perpetrated by India in the occupied territory, which have repeatedly brought to attention of Indian Government through numerous joint letters.
In the ninth JOINT LETTER DATED 03 JUNE 2021, two UN mandate-holders have registered their serious concerns about India's continued acts of intimidation against and arbitrary detention of local Kashmiri journalists, including Auqib Javed, Fahad Shah, Qazi Shibli, and Saraj Gul, which is linked to their journalistic activities on the situation in the occupied Jammu & Kashmir. The mandate-holders have further deplored the fact that India has pressurized these journalists to change the focus of their reporting. This reflects the growing pattern of silencing civil society actors in IIOJ&K and deter them from independent reporting of the human rights issues in the occupied territory.
In the tenth JOINT LETTER DATED 12 JULY 2021, a group of four UN Special Procedure Mandate-Holders have expressed grave concerns over the re-arrest, followed by torture and death in custody of prominent Kashmiri leader Mr. Ashraf Sehrai; and reported lack of access to adequate medical care while he was in prison, given his fragility and known physical conditions. They have also voiced their concerns over arrest by Indian forces of his two sons, Mr. Mujahid Ashraf Khan and Mr. Rashed Ashraf Khan, after funeral of Mr. Sehrai, and charging them under anti-terrorism law. The mandate-holders have, inter alia, called on India “to undertake a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the custodial death of Mr. Sehrai so as to determine and document the reason for his arrest, its factual and legal basis, his treatment in detention, including any indication that he may have been tortured or otherwise mistreated, and the cause of his death”.
In the eleventh JOINT LETTER DATED 01 OCTOBER 2021, three UN Special Procedure Mandate-Holders have expressed ‘deep concerns regarding the apparent unnecessary and excessive use of force’ against Kashmiri journalists and human rights defenders, Mr. Chandrabhushan Tiwari, Mr. Aakash Hassan and Mr. Qazi Shibli, by Indian security forces. They have further voiced deep concerns that such ‘unwarranted attacks against journalists may be an attempt to clamp down on freedom of expression, and silence reporting on human rights issues’ in IIOJ&K. The mandate-holders have asked India, inter alia, to provide information on results of investigation, if any conducted, on the cases; and measures taken to ensure favorable conditions for the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, and protection of journalists in IIOJ&K.
In addition to joint letters, UN mandate-holders have also publicly voiced their strong concerns over the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in IIOJ&K, as result of India’s illegal and unilateral actions of 05th August 2019.
On 22 August 2019,UN rights experts urged India to end communications shutdown as well as the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests imposed in Kashmir. “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” said the experts. “The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”
The experts expressed deep concerns over reported increase in the arrest of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and others as well as use of excessive force against protesters, including the use of live ammunition.
On 04 August 2020, on completion of one year of India’s illegal and unilateral actions,UN experts called on India and the international community to take urgent action to address the alarming human rights situation in the territory.
The experts said that since 5 August 2019, “the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in free fall. If India will not take any genuine and immediate steps to resolve the situation, meet their obligations to investigate historic and recent cases of human rights violations and prevent future violations, then the international community should step up.”
“There is a stream of new alleged rights violations. With no State Human Rights Commission and internet restrictions, the avenues for reporting are further reduced. We call on India to schedule pending visits as a matter of urgency, particularly of the experts dealing with torture and disappearances,” the experts added.
On 18 February 2021, UN EXPERTS WARNED THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY ABOUT THE DEVASTATING HUMAN RIGHTS IMPLICATIONS OF INDIA'S DEMOGRAPHIC ENGINEERING OF IIOJ&K, noting that "the number of successful applicants for domicile certificates that appear to be from outside Jammu and Kashmir raises concerns that demographic change on a linguistic, religious and ethnic basis is already underway". They called on India "to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are protected, and that they are able to express their political opinions and participate meaningfully in matters affecting them".
On 22 December 2021, UN EXPERTS URGED INDIAN AUTHORITIES TO STOP TARGETING KASHMIRI HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER KHURRAM PARVEZ AND RELEASE HIM IMMEDIATELY. The mandate-holders have recalled that Mr. Parvez ‘has been victim of a number of incidents of reprisals’ at hands of Indian forces ‘for sharing information [about Indian human rights violations] with the United Nations, as documented in various reports of the Secretary-General, and communications from UN special procedures mandate holders”. They have observed that Mr. Parvez’s arrest ‘appears to be a new incident of retaliation for his legitimate activities as a human rights defender and because he has spoken out about violations’ by Indian forces. Recounting details of his case, the UN experts have expressed concerns that India ‘continues to use the UAPA as a means of coercion to restrict civil society’s, the media’s and human rights defenders’ fundamental freedoms’ in IIOJ&K. They have reiterated their call on India to ‘to bring this legislation in line with its international legal obligations under human rights law’.
On 22 November 2022, the UN Special Procedures issued a press release, thereby reiterating their call for immediate and unconditional release by the Indian Government of Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez. They described his detention as chilling effect on civil society, rights activists and journalists in the region.
On 24 March 2023, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders issued a press release highlighting that India must immediately end its crackdown against Kashmiri human rights defenders. Indian authorities appear to be intensifying the long-standing repression of Kashmiri civil society asKashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested in a second case on terrorism charges.