Will report Kashmir situation to UN: Rapporteur

Greater Kashmir

Interacts With Victims, Scribes, Lawyers

Srinagar, Jan 19: In a significant development, the visiting United Nations Special Rapporteur, Margaret Sekaggya, Wednesday said she would report to the Human Right Council of the international body about the situation in Kashmir including human rights violations in the Valley. She also promised to recommend measures to improve the ground situation in the state.
The Rapporteur’s visit has gained significance in wake of last summer’s unrest in Kashmir in which 112 civilians were killed in Police and CRPF action.
Interacting with victims of human rights violations here, Margaret Sekaggya, who is in the Valley to assess the situation of human rights defenders, said: “I will go through your cases and make necessary recommendations so that you get justice.”
Earlier, in her opening remarks to media persons, she revealed her mandate. “I am here on the invitation of Government of India to talk to HR defenders and look at the challenges they face. When I go back, the facts and figures gathered would be complied into a report along with the recommendations. I shall later submit the report to UN Human Rights Council. I believe the recommendations could be used to improve the situation of the human rights defenders in Jammu and Kashmir,” she said.
After her arrival in Srinagar, she first met the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) chairperson Parveena Ahangar, who apprised her about some cases of enforced disappearances.
Parveena told Sekggaya that her son, Javid Ahmad, was taken by the National Security Guards in 1990 and after denial of justice by the state, she formed the APDP in 1994.
“We don’t want any compensation. We only want to know whether our loved ones are dead or alive,” Ahanger told Sekaggya. “Hope you will take up the issue with India to locate the whereabouts of our dear ones.”
Another APDP member, Advocate Mir Hafizullah told the UN Rapporteur that HR defenders were getting direct or indirect threats from the state agencies.
Referring to the case of the prominent human rights lawyer Jaleel Andrabi—who disappeared and was later killed in 1996—Hafiz told her that when the government of India can extradite Monica Bedi from Portugal, why it can’t extradite Major Avtar Singh, the main accused in Jaleel’s murder case. He informed her that Avtar Singh’s presence at California was confirmed by the United States National Central Bureau (USNCB).
Later, the UN Rapporteur held a meeting with members of Shopian Majlis Mashawarat who were represented by Shakeel Ahangar, the husband of Shopian rape and murder victim Neelofer and brother of another victim Aasiya Jan.
Shakeel informed Sekggaya that they were denied justice by the state.
 “You are also a daughter and a mother. You are the best person to understand my pain,” he told her.
Pointing towards the mutilated photograph of his sister, Shakeel said: “See what the men in uniform have done to her. Whoever supported my family was implicated in the same case by the state agencies. Your visit has rekindled my hope for justice and I appeal United Nations to help me in this.”
Shakeel sought investigation of the case through an independent agency outside Indian constitution.
Sekaggya also met Farooq Ahmad, father of Zahid Farooq, a teenager from Brein Nishat who was killed by BSF men on February 5, 2010. Ahmad told her that he was not satisfied with the court verdict which allowed the transfer of his son’s murder case to the General Security Forces Court.
“How can BSF act against its own men?” he told Sekaggya, seeking United Nations help in getting justice.
Later, Sekaggya held separate meetings with High Court Bar Association represented by senior lawyers Zaffar Shah, Rafiq Ahmad Joo, Nazir Ahmad Ronga, Ejaz Bedar, Syed Manzoor and Ajaz Ahmad Dar.
She also met the Coalition of Civil Society (CCS) represented by Parvez Imroz, Zahir ud Din and Khurram Parvez, who highlighted the threats to HR defenders in the Valley.
They appealed the Sekaggya to conduct an impartial inquiry into the killings in Kashmir, sources of threat and harassment to HR defenders and also sought free travel for HR defenders in and outside the state.
During their interaction with her, the Bar members highlighted the human right violations committed by the security forces and police in Kashmir. They discussed with her the role of law enforcing agencies and the mechanism of their accountability.
The Bar sought international probe by United Nations in respect of certain well known deceased persons. It also sought probe into the general pattern followed by the state during the past two decades in the suppression of peoples’ demands, which are leading to the violation of human rights of communities, groups of people and ultimately of the entire nation.
They also apprised her about the recent killings, arbitrary detention of political  activists  under  Public Safety Act, arrest of minors and their lodgment in high security jails, the continuous incarceration of Bar President Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom  and Bar Secretary Advocate Ghulam Nabi Shaheen.
Sekaggya also met president Kashmir Pandit Sangarsh Samiti, Sanjay Tickoo. He informed her about the reasons that led to exodus of Pandit community from Valley in 1989.
She also met Ghulam Nabi Shiekh father of Farhat Mehmood of Bemina. Sheikh told her that his son was arrested on December 16, 2003 by local police and was handed over to Kolkata police for none of his fault. Sheikh told her that his son was implicated in a militancy related case on false grounds. Farhat is lodged in Presidency Correctional Home Alipora, Kolkata on charges of “waging war against state.”
Sekaggya’s two day visit to J&K is being facilitated by the Delhi-based Working Group on Human Rights headed by Vrinda Grover in association with APDP headed by Parveena Ahangar.
Sekaggya also met a delegation of local journalists who highlighted the problems faced by them while reporting situation in the Valley.
Sekaggya started her 12-day India visit on January 10 and besides Jammu and Kashmir will be visiting the states of Orissa and West Bengal, and hold national consultations with human rights defenders in Delhi.
She is scheduled to conclude her visit to India by addressing a press conference in New Delhi on January 21.
Sekaggya, a lawyer from Uganda, was appointed Special Rapporteur in March 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council. She is independent from any government and serves in her individual capacity.
A statement on her official website says that the aim of the current mission is 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.
The visit of a high profile UN representative to Kashmir assumes added importance in the backdrop of recent WikiLeaks that Government of India is condoning torture in Kashmir.