UN submits final recommendations to Indian govt

Islamabad, Apr 03: The United Nations has officially submitted the recommendations of a related report to the Indian government following a UN human rights official’s last year visit to five troubled Indian states, that saw recommending repeal of arbitrary acts that empower the Indian army to use force on civilians in Indian Held Kashmir and elsewhere. In January last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, had launched a fact-finding mission to assess human rights scenario in IHK, Gujrat, Orissa, Assam and West Bengal. The related report was submitted last month while the final recommendations are reported to have been formally submitted to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs, some time last week. The 11-day fact-finding mission continued from January 10-21 and the preliminary recommendations were drafted immediately after the visit. Some of these recommendations highlighted in the UNHRC last month’s report, had demanded repeal of the controversial Public Safety Act, Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act largely followed in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of North India. The afore said acts allow the Indian Army and paramilitary troops secretive and unquestioned detentions of civilians on the pretext of maintaining law and order. The UNHRC Spokesperson in Geneva Rupert Colville, on contact, told this journalist on Monday that the related queries had been sent to the office of the Special Rapporteur for official version. Subsequently, the special rapporteur’s office, in an email, confirmed to The Nation the submission of UNHRC report recommendations without giving specific details. “Reference to the written request received by the Office of Spokesperson – we hereby confirm that draft proposals on the situation of human rights defenders dated 1 March 2012 reported by the honourable Margaret Sekakgya, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in pursuance of her fact-finding mission to five states of India; Bhubaneshwar (Orissa), Kolkata (West Bengal), Guwahati (Assam), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Jammu and Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir), covering a time period January 10-21, 2011, have been redirected to the competent authority,” the email read. “The aim of the special rapporteur’s mission was to evaluate in person, in an objective and impartial manner, the situation of human rights defenders in the country, and to initiate a process of constructive cooperation with the authorities,” it added. In the story “UN decides to get tough with India” printed on September 29, 2010, this scribe had first reported that UNHRC was to launch a detailed report on human rights violations in IHK. Some of the preliminary recommendations to India’s central and state government, shared on January 21, 2011, on the conclusion of Sekaggya’s visit to India read as follows: “The Prime Minister and the Chief Secretaries should publicly acknowledge the importance and legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders, i.e. anyone who “individually and in association with others, […] promote[s] and […]strive[s] for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”(article 1 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, A/RES/53/144). Specific attention must be given to human rights defenders who face particular risks (as identified above). Security forces should be clearly instructed to respect the work and the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders, especially human rights defenders who face particular risks (as identified above). Sensitisation training to security forces on the role and activities of human rights defenders should be delivered, with technical advice and assistance from relevant UN entities, non-governmental organisations and other partners. Prompt and impartial investigations on violations committed against human rights defenders should be conducted, and perpetrators should be prosecuted. The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act should be critically reviewed. The Draft Bill on Prevention Against Torture should be adopted without further delay. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women should be ratified. The ratification of the complaints procedure will provide women human rights defenders an opportunity to access another procedure to address any violations of rights under the Convention. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act should be repealed and application of other security laws which adversely affect the work and safety of human rights defenders should be reviewed.”

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