The decades-old dispute between Pakistan and India "has robbed millions of their basic human rights" the UN's human rights chief says.

Zeid Raad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, seen here in a file picture, says the Kashmir conflict
Zeid Raad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, seen here in a file picture, says the Kashmir conflict "has robbed millions of their basic human rights." (Reuters)

The UN human rights chief called on Thursday for an independent, international investigation into reports of rights violations in the disputed region of Kashmir, laying blame for civilian deaths and injuries on both Indian and Pakistani security forces.

In the first UN report on human rights in both Indian-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the office of Zeid Raad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, details "chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces." 

The report was written without visiting the region as both sides refused to grant unconditional access to the investigators.

The decades-old dispute "has robbed millions of their basic human rights," Zeid said. He called for the UN-backed Human Rights Council that begins a new session on Monday to create a "Commission of Inquiry" to investigate alleged abuses in the disputed region.

TRT World spoke to journalist Neha Poonia n New Delhi.

India rejected the report as "fallacious, tendentious and motivated" and called it a selective compilation of largely unverified information. It said it has protested to Zeid's office.

"We question the intent in bringing out such a report," said Raveesh Kumar, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman. "It is overtly prejudiced and seeks to build a false narrative."

However, Pakistan's foreign ministry in a statement says it “welcomes the proposal by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish a Commission of Inquiry for international investigation into human rights violations”. 

TRT World spoke to journalist Kamran Yousaf in Islamabad.

Criticism of India's tactics

The 49-page report adds to criticism about India's tactics in the region, saying its security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir used "excessive force that led to unlawful killings" and caused many injuries.

It cited a 20-month span starting in July 2016 in which 145 civilians were killed by security forces and a further 20 by armed groups, according to figures from civil society groups.

The report decried the use of pellet-firing shotguns that are still being used against protesters.

Much of the report focuses on serious violations committed from July 2016 to April 2018. 

Activists estimate that up to 145 civilians were killed by security forces and up to 20 civilians killed by armed groups in the same period, it said.

"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.

In a statement, Zeid called for the Human Rights Council – which opens a three-week session in Geneva on Monday – to launch a commission of inquiry into all violations. Alleged sites of mass graves in the disputed region should be investigated, he said.

Zeid called for maximum restraint and denounced the lack of prosecutions of Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir due to a 1990 law giving them what he called "virtual immunity."

Decades of dispute

As for Pakistan, the report cites experts' belief that its military continues to support the operations of armed groups across the Line of Control. It says violations in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are of a more "structural" nature.

It urged Pakistan to end its "misuse" of anti-terror legislation to persecute peaceful activists and quash dissent.

The region has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and both New Delhi and Islamabad claim most of the former Himalayan kingdom of Kashmir, although China claims sovereignty over a small part of the territory also claimed by India.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947 over their competing claims to the region.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups who demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. Pakistan denies the charge and says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris fighting Indian administration.

India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it administers.

Click here to read the full report.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies