Sustained attempts to distract, divert focus from human rights violation: UNHCR lashes out at Indian media over criticism on maiden Kashmir HR abuse report
Geneva: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Tuesday lashed out at campaign by Indian media outlets against UN bodies and Secretary General UN over its Kashmir HR report as ‘puzzling’ and ‘wild claims’. It said that UN will continue to try to engage with Indian and Pakistani authorities on HR issues and press for access to both Indian and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Here we reproduce the statement issued by Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville:
“Nefarious conspiracy”, “Pakistan-authored report”, “fallacious”, “mala fide” – these are some of the accusations levelled by numerous Indian media outlets against the UN Human Rights Office for our publication last month of the first-ever UN human rights report on Kashmir.
The report was developed through remote monitoring, after the Indian and Pakistani authorities failed to grant us unconditional access to the region. Since the report was published, we have been deeply disappointed by the reaction of the Indian authorities, who dismissed the report as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated” without examining it and responding to the very serious concerns about the human rights situation in Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir as laid out in the report.
In recent days, a surprising number of Indian media organizations have seized unquestioningly upon a claim by someone reported to be a Canada-based imam of Pakistani descent, named Zafar Bangash, that the High Commissioner was in constant contact with him, with the inference being that Mr Bangash influenced the content of the report. This is totally untrue. The High Commissioner has never spoken with Mr Bangash, and we are not aware of receiving any information from him, let alone using it, although it is possible he sent an email or letter and received a polite acknowledgment, as is the case with thousands of letters and emails sent to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In the face of this and numerous other misrepresentations of the report, we would like to set the facts straight.
The report contains 388 footnotes that detail all the sources that were used: these include official sources such as the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – India’s parliament – as well as the Supreme Court of India, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission, the Union Ministry of Defence, the Chief of Army Staff and even a former Vice President. Accusations that we used unverified information are thus rather puzzling. The report also draws on reliable information from reputable civil society organizations and the Press Trust of India, and these are all clearly cited in the footnotes.
Some Indian media outlets have even gone so far as to claim that a photograph of the High Commissioner with three individuals from Pakistan-Administered Kashmir taken outside the Human Rights Council room in Geneva is – I quote — “clear proof of the ISI’s [Pakistan’s intelligence agency] involvement.” The unsupported conclusion that this photo indicates complicity is tendentious and – along with other such wild claims — appears designed to discredit the report while avoiding any real examination of, and reflection on, its contents. Individuals often ask to be photographed with the High Commissioner, and he often politely obliges.
We are disturbed by the sustained attempts to distract and divert the focus away from the human rights violations on both sides of the Line of Control. The UN Human Rights Office has a global mandate and works independently, with a well-established methodology, in its public reporting. Ultimately, our goal in drafting this report was to assist the States and others to identify and address human rights challenges and to give a voice to all Kashmiris who have been rendered voiceless amid the deep political polarization. This is not about politics. It is about the human rights of millions of people in Kashmir. And we will continue to try to engage with Indian and Pakistani authorities on this and other important human rights issues, and press for access to both Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.