UN Rapporteur To Visit Valley

UN Rapporteur To Visit Valley

11 January 2011
Greater Kashmir
Arif Shafi Wani

Srinagar: In the backdrop of last year’s summer unrest in the Valley which left 112 civilians dead in police and paramilitary CRPF action, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur will visit Kashmir next week to assess the condition of human rights defenders. Officials said Margaret Sekaggya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, is scheduled to meet top officials of the State including the Home Secretary, Director General of Police besides the civil society and human rights groups. “She has arrived in India at the invitation of Government of India. She will be visiting Kashmir next week and meet State officials including police, members of civil society. On the basis of feedback, she will be filing report to the UN Human Rights Mission in Geneva,” Rajiv Chandran, the National Information Officer of the UN Mission in India told Greater Kashmir. However, he refused to divulge whether the UN’s Special Rapporteur will meet the pro-freedom leaders. “It is the mandate of the Rapporteur to meet anyone she deems necessary to gather information. But the meeting with separatists is not in her schedule,” he added. Sekaggya started her 12-day India visit on January 10 and besides Jammu and Kashmir will be visiting the states of Orissa and West Bengal, and hold national consultations with human rights defenders in Delhi. Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda, was appointed Special Rapporteur in March 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. “The aim of the mission is to evaluate in person, in an objective and impartial manner, the situation of human rights defenders in the country, and to initiate a process of constructive cooperation with the authorities,” said a statement by the UN Mission in India quoting Sekaggya. Pertinently, Sekaggya after her visit to Columbia in 2009 had expressed concern over what she has called a “pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders” and even challenged President Álvaro Uribe to “genuinely address” concerns for their safety. The human rights organizations and civil society groups of the Valley have exuded hope that the UN Special Rapporteur’s visit will help them to highlight the crackdown on the human rights defenders. Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G) Syed Ali Shah Geelani said the UN is morally and legally bound to take note of human rights abuses in the Valley by virtue of its resolutions on Kashmir. “If the UN Rapporteur is serious, she should visit the jails and families of the victims of State terrorism. It is not only the human rights defenders but every section of the society including children and aged has suffered at the hands of Indian troopers and police,” Geelani said. “Human rights is separate from the politics and nobody can differ from it. There have been countless human rights violations in the Valley in past two decades and violation of Geneva Convention. We have seen how our youth, human rights defenders and lawyers are being rearrested after release by the Court. We hope that the UN Rapporteur will take note of the human rights violations and impress upon India to put an end to it,” said the Chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Khuram Pervez, the program coordinator Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies said the human rights defenders in the Valley have been facing victimization by the State forces for past two decades. “However, during the past six months, the human rights defenders particularly lawyers have been implicated on false charges just and even threatened with sedition charges for lending voice to the oppressed people. During our meeting with the UN Rapporteur, we will submit that it is impossible for human rights defenders to work is such a situation,” he said. In 2008, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Faith, Asma Jehangir had visited Jammu and Kashmir and met pro-freedom leaders, members of civil society and religious groups. She has underscored the need for carrying forward the peace process and confidence-building measures “in best interests of people of the sub-continent.”


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