United Nations (UN) in a letter from its special rapporteurs has requested a response from the Government of India over a series of allegations in the cases concerning arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, and ill-treatment committed against three men from Kashmir.
“These allegations are part of what appears to be an ongoing pattern of serious violations of human rights by police, army, security agencies and the judiciary in the Jammu and Kashmir region, warrants in our view the most serious attention on the part of the highest authorities”, mentioned the letter addressed to the Indian government.
The letter highlighted the cases of Waheed Para, Irfan Ahmad Dar, and Naseer Ahmad Wani.
Waheed Para, a political and social activist, who is also a member of ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’ was arrested on November 25 2020, and has remained under detention since then.
According to the letter, Para had participated in a closed virtual meeting with the UN on 30 July 2020. In the meeting, he raised concerns over the Government of India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir, its treatment of Muslim minorities, and the recent border tensions with China. Following his interaction, he started receiving threats from officials with the NIA. They indicated that he was inviting trouble by engaging in such events. He was given an ultimatum that if he did not stop speaking out about the Government of India, action would be taken against him.
“He was subject to abusive interrogations after his arrest, which lasted from 10 to 12 hours at a time and questioned about his participation at the above-mentioned event where he interacted with UN Security Council members. He was held in a dark underground cell at subzero temperature, was deprived of sleep, kicked, slapped, beaten with rods, stripped naked and hung upside down. His ill-treatment was recorded. Mr. Para was examined by a government doctor three times since his arrest last November and three times by a psychiatrist. He requested medication for insomnia and anxiety.”, mentioned the letter.
The special rapporteurs also mentioned, “Our concern in the case of Mr. Waheed Para is heightened by the fact that his arrest and detention appear to be linked to his interaction with UN Security Council members, which would amount to acts of reprisals for such cooperation.”
Irfan Ahmed Dar, a 23-year-old shopkeeper, was arrested near his residence in Sopore area of northern Kashmir by Jammu and Kashmir Police Special Operations Group (SOG) on 15 September 2020. He was detained without a warrant. SOG raided his house, his family members were beaten and their house was vandalized.
On 16 September 2020, Dar’s family received news that he died.
“The police claimed that Mr. Ahmad Dar was killed while he was trying to escape from their custody. However, while performing their last rites on his body, it was found that his facial bones had been fractured, his front teeth were broken and his head appeared to have bruises of blunt force trauma.”, the letter said.
On 29 November 2019, 19-year-old Naseer Ahmed Wani’s house was raised by a team of 44 Rashtriya Rifles (44 RR). They allegedly claimed that his phone was used by militants.
While vandalizing Wani’s house, “The army personnel assembled all the women in a single room and asked their names, took their photographs and requested everyone to handover their mobile phones. They were threatened that if they did not comply, they would be stripped naked”, mentioned the letter. He was taken away by the soldiers.
The next evening, the same army officers visited Wani’s house and told his family that there was no need to visit the police station or to ‘initiate any legal proceedings’ as they released Wani. He never returned home and his whereabouts are unknown ever since.
According to the letter, his family was threatened “not to make any further enquiries or take legal action.”
Seeking out clarifications into the allegations made about the ill-treatment of three Kashmiri men, the letter said, “It is of particular concern that no investigation into the allegations of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings have yet to be conducted in an independent, impartial, prompt, effective, thorough and transparent manner in accordance with the human rights obligations of India.”
Under the mandates provided to special rapporteurs by the Human Rights Council, they seek observations from the Government on India in the matters of: ‘fate and current whereabouts of Mr. Naseer Ahmad Wani’, ‘inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of Mr. Waheed Para, Mr. Irfan Ahmad Dar, Mr. Naseer Ahmad Wani’, ‘detailed information about the factual and legal grounds for the arrests and continued detention of Mr. Waheed Para and Mr. Dar’ and ‘factual basis justifying the recourse to terrorism related charges levied against Mr. Waheed Para’.
“If no such measures have been taken, please explain how this is compatible with the international human rights obligations of India,” said the letter.
Concluding the matter, the special rapporteurs of the UN said: “These allegations are part of what appears to be an ongoing pattern of serious violations of human rights by police, army, security agencies and the judiciary in the Jammu and Kashmir region, warrants in our view the most serious attention on the part of the highest authorities. In this regard, we may publicly express our concerns in the near future, as we believe that the wider public should be informed about the implications of these allegations on the exercise and enjoyment of their human rights.”
“The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did not respond to a request for a comment, or for confirmation that it has received the letter”, as reported by The Hindu.