UN rights experts urge India to end information blockade in IOK

Published: August 22, 2019
In this file photo taken on August 19, 2019, an occupying force personnel patrols on a deserted road of the Lal Chowk area in Srinagar. 

In this file photo taken on August 19, 2019, an occupying force personnel patrols on a deserted road of the Lal Chowk area in Srinagar. PHOTO: AFP

UN human rights experts on Thursday urged New Delhi to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

Concern has been expressed that IOK being stripped of its special status would only inflame tensions in the region, a statement released by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights read.

An information blockade has been imposed in the Himalayan valley since August 4 with access to internet, phone and cable networks cut off by the Indian regime to silence the voice of the Kashmiri people.

“The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” it said. “The blackout is a form of collective punishment on its people without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

New Delhi has also imposed a curfew across the war-torn valley  bringing in hundreds of thousands of troops to enforce restrictions on the freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly.

“We remind Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government are intrinsically disproportionate, because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly,” the communique said.

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At the same time, it added, information received suggests that there has been an increase in the arrest of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and others.

The UN experts said they were deeply concerned by reports that security forces were conducting night raids on private homes leading to the arrests of young people.

“Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” the statement said.

“The allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, and, if confirmed, those responsible must be held accountable.

“We are gravely concerned about allegations that the whereabouts of some of those detained is not known as well as the general heightened risk of enforced disappearances, which may proliferate against the backdrop of mass arrests and restricted access to the internet and other communications networks.”

They also expressed serious concern about the use of excessive force against protesters, including the use of live ammunition, which could amount to violations of the right to life.

“India has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests,” the experts said. “This means that the use of deadly force is a measure permissible only as last resort and to protect life.”

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