ISLAMABAD: Atrocities being perpetrated by the Indian forces in occupied Kashmir and the maltreatment of minorities in India are not among the European Union’s human rights priorities for 2020.
Many in Pakistan see this glaring omission as an illustration of EU’s “duplicity and doublespeak” on human rights.
Council of the European Union (EU), which represents the governments of the bloc’s member states and is considered as an ‘essential EU decision-maker’ because of its role in developing the EU’s common foreign and security policy, listed the human rights priorities to be pursued at the UN forums at its meeting on Feb 17.
The opening of the report, containing the council conclusions, lays out all the principles and intentions, which include ensuring human rights compliance; denunciation of human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur; supporting the work and mandate of UN Human Rights Commissioner for effective delivery of her mandate; defending and supporting the work of UN Human Rights procedures; and calling on all states to allow full, unconditional and unhindered access for the UN and other human rights mechanisms to their territories including disputed regions and conflict zones.
The areas to be focused by the EU include sexual and gender-based violence; climate change and environmental degradation; new and emerging digital technologies; human rights defenders; death penalty; use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments; democracy and respect for rule of law; freedom of opinion and expression; all forms of discrimination; rights of minorities; children rights; terrorism; International Humanitarian Law including support for UN mandated commissions of inquiry and international mechanisms; refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants; and implementation of UN guiding principles on business and human rights.
Qureshi says the bloc is shy of talking about human rights violations for economic compulsions
The report in its various sections named countries of concern where respective violations of human rights were occurring as it vowed to address situations in third countries, while being at the forefront setting the agenda on key thematic issues, and seeking to build coalitions on thematic issues and country situations. But, a closer look at the list reveals the selective approach of the Council because major violations in countries like India have been overlooked.
Over the past few years there has been a marked deterioration in human rights in India under Modi government. Various international human rights reports have regularly pointed out harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders, civil society activists, and journalists.
The situation in Occupied Kashmir, where Indian forces had been brutally suppressing the indigenous uprising for decades and even resorted to inhuman tactics including the use of pellet guns, aggravated after the forceful annexation of the occupied territory after the annulment of Article 370 on August 5 last year. The region has now been under a lockdown for over 200 days.
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) last year for the second consecutive year called for setting up of a Commission of Inquiry for investigating the human rights abuses being perpetrated by Indian troops in the Valley. The OHCHR report documented excessive use of force by Indian security forces leading to civilian casualties, arbitrary detention, impunity for human rights violations and human rights abuses, and existence of special legal regimes in occupied Kashmir.
The EU Council, despite professing strong support for UN human rights forums and especially the work of High Commissioner on Human Rights, did not either find Kashmir a fit enough case to make it one of its human rights priorities.
Such doublespeak dents EU’s own moral authority.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while talking to Dawn, said: “The executives, while recognising that there is an issue, are shy of talking about it for commercial and economic compulsions.” He said the parliaments around the world including the EU parliament, Britain’s House of Commons, and US Congress had discussed the issue, which shows the international focus on the Kashmir issue.
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari was more scathing in her criticism of the EU’s human rights agenda for 2020 calling it a reflection of the bloc’s “contradictions and hypocrisy” on human rights issues. “They have absolutely failed to mention India and its racist and fascist policies in occupied Kashmir and in India itself against minorities especially Muslims. The document mentions torture and absolutely fails to mention India in IOJK and against protesters against the CAA in India. Yet it mentions Pakistan sadly,” she said.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2020