ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Thursday drew the attention of the United Nations high commissioner on human rights in Geneva towards the illegal annexation of India-held Kashmir (IHK) on Aug 5, 2019.

In a letter, Dr Mazari spoke about High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s personal commitment to protecting and promoting human rights, and appealed to her to bring to a halt the forcible transfer of civilian populations to and from IHK.

She said that the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued two reports on Kashmir, the first in June 2018 and the second in July 2019.

In both reports, the OHCHR raised concerns about the excessive use of force by Indian security forces in IHK. Dr Mazari said the excessive use of force was the standard modus operandi, as a recently released photograph from IHK showed a three-year-old child sitting by his grandfather’s body in Sopore.

She said that in the absence of intervention by the international community, India seemed to have gained the strength to violate international human rights and humanitarian law, with no concern as to the consequences of these violations.

She added that India has granted around 25,000 Indian citizens domicile certificates in IHK, a violation of the fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49 of which states: “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Dr Mazari said that in an attempt to evade a free and fair plebiscite that respects the wishes of the Kashmiri people as required by several UN Security Council resolutions, India has been trying since August last year to alter the demography of IHK.

She noted that demographic alterations in an occupied territory have been categorised as a violation of the obligation to respect the right to self-determination, as highlighted by the International Court of Justice in paragraph 122 of its advisory opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Constitution of a Wall in the Occupied Palestine Territory.

Dr Mazari sought an urgent intervention to bring an end to these breaches of fundamental human rights norms.

“If we do not act together now, we may risk further destabilisation and bloodshed in the region, which would affect millions on both sides of the Line of Control, the Pakistan-India border and in the region at large. We cannot abandon the Kashmiri people in their time of need and struggle,” she said.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020