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UN Rights Chief Laments Kashmir's 'Untold Suffering,' Calls For Probe Into Abuses

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein

The UN human rights chief has called for an international investigation into possible rights violations in Kashmir, the disputed region divided between India and Pakistan.

A report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on June 14 highlighted the "chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces," alleging large-scale abuses committed by both sides in the volatile Himalayan region.

"I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir," High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.

"It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering."

Kashmir has been divided between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Both claim the region and have fought two wars over it.

A secessionist insurgency in the Muslim-majority region has led to the deaths of an estimated 44,000 people over the decades, many of them civilians.

The UN report focuses on what it calls serious violations in India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 to April 2018. The report quotes activists as saying 165 civilians were killed by security forces and armed groups during that period.

"In responding to demonstrations that started in 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries," the report said.

India immediately rejected the report, calling it a "selective compilation of largely unverified information" that creates "a false narrative."

New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of arming and training insurgents and helping them infiltrate across the militarized Line of Control that separates the two sides. Pakistan denies the charges and calls the militants “freedom fighters” seeking autonomy.

The report also cited alleged violations in the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir. It urged Islamabad to end "misuse" of antiterror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and suppress dissent.

Pakistan did not immediately comment on the report.

Meanwhile, senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his police bodyguard were fatally shot on June 14 by unknown assailants in the Indian-controlled portion, police say.

Bukhari, who was the editor for a group of daily newspapers, advocated for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir dispute, often participating in peace conferences between Indian and Pakistani officials.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AP