Third UN Letter Draws Attention to the Torture Claims in Kashmir as India Remains Irresponsive

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Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

SRINAGAR – Raising concerns over the continued deteriorating human rights situation in Kashmir, United Nations experts once again asked Indian government to take steps to address the grave issue of torture, arbitrary detentions and rights of Kashmiri Muslims living under crippling restrictions since January 2019. The letter addressed to the Indian government by the experts had specifically mentioned restrictions on freedom of expression and right to dissent.

In the letter published on Saturday (July 4), 60 days after it was sent to Indian government, the experts of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) have written on Kashmir issue since August 5, 2020 when the Indian government revoked the special constitutional protection of the state under Article 370 and put the region under unprecedented lockdown; police arrested thousands of people, many under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), in what experts say was a “mass crackdown targeting those expressing dissent against the same decisions.”

The last letter was sent on February 27, 2020 raising similar concerns which did not get any response from the Indian side.

Kashmiri baker Sonaullah Sofi shows torture marks on his son. — AP

Naming and giving details of at least five cases, the letter says between January 2019 and July 2019, a number of Kashmiri Muslims were subjected to “corporal punishment” by army inside campus. For instance, Rizwan Assad Pandit, a 29-year-old school teacher died of torture at the hands of counter insurgency wing of the regional police.

“The Preliminary postmortem report found that Pandit died due to “extravasations of blood” caused by multiple injuries. He allegedly had torture marks visible on his corpse. However, the autopsy report has not been made public,” reads the UN letter.

After August 5, there were numerous reports in the media that spoke of torture of youth including minor in Kashmir villages by army and police. The letter lists at least nine cases of torture victims since August. Arif Ahmad Wani, Riyaz Ahmad Thickrey, 28, Yawar Ahmed Bhat, 15, Bashir Ahmad Dar, 65, Bashir Ahmad Fafoo, 60, Irfan Ahmad Fafoo, 20; Abdul Rashid Wani, 43, Umar Farooq Bhat, 24, Suhail Ahmad Sofi, 15, Adnan Shafi Bhat, 12.

The letter says Arif Ahmad Wani was subjected to “acts of torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment” after he was summoned to the camp by the army during a raid of his home in Chilpora village in August. “His cries while being tortured was broadcast through loudspeaker for the neighbouring villagers to hear,” the letter highlighted the reported allegation.

The experts urged that Indian government “to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation” into these allegation of torture “under articles 6 and of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and articles 7 and 12 of the Committee Against Torture (CAT)”.

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