S Qamar Afzal Rizvi
THE two grave humanitarian issues— arresting the global attention and demanding the primacy of international law— are Kashmir and Palestine. These bleeding soars— of the humanity which are more than a half century old—serve to be an eye opener for the international community, as well as the global powers. A Harvard scholar, American linguist and political scholar Professor Noam Chomsky compared the ‘conditions’ in Kashmir to that of Palestine.He called the current development in Kashmir as “shocking” and termed the discussion between Kashmir and the rest of the India as “hysterical”.
The on-going protests in Kashmir following the killing of a Kashmir freedom activistBurhan Wani were met by police firing resulting in over 50 deaths and over 3,500 injured including hundreds of blindings due to ‘pellet-shot’. This is of serious concern to every segment of the ‘South Asian community’ since Kashmir is core to the future of peace relations between India-Pakistan. Indian Held Kashmir(IHK) was brought under ‘draconian’ Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in July 1990.
The state legislature has absolutely no jurisdiction in the matter, though under the Constitution ‘public order’ is a state subject [Seventh Schedule, List II, Entry 1]. Under Section 4(a) of the Act, even a non-commissioned officer can order his men to shoot to kill “if he is of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for maintenance of public orders”. This gives very wide discretion to even very junior officers. Similarly, Section 4(b) allows such military personnel to destroy any shelter from which, in his opinion, armed attacks “are likely to be made” or which has been utilised as a hide-out by absconders “wanted for any offense.”
This overriding latitude has permitted the destruction of large numbers of dwellings and other buildings in the State, including in collateral damage when buildings adjoining the one targeted have been damaged or destroyed. Experts in the UN Human Rights Committee, have been of the view that this Act is ‘violative’ of several Articles of the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ to which India is a signatory. Article 2(3) directs the state to ensure that any person whose rights have been violated “shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed in an official capacity.”
India has neglected international obligations and its own constitution by ignoring human rights violations allegedly carried out in the name of ‘national security’ in Jammu and Kashmir state, reported by Amnesty International. The report says that no member of the security forces deployed in the northern-most state over the past 25 years of militancy in the region has been tried for human rights violations in a civilian court.
“An absence of accountability has ensured that security force personnel continue to operate in a manner that facilitates serious human rights violations,” the group says in the report. All of the families interviewed by Amnesty International India said that “they had little or no faith that those responsible for human rights violations will be brought to justice.” Spokesmen for India’s defence ministry and ministry of home affairs, under which military and paramilitary forces function, said they weren’t able to comment on the report immediately. India has deployed tens of thousands of army, paramilitary and police forces to squash militancy in the region. Many local civilians and activists have alleged that the security forces are responsible for crimes including murder, kidnap and rape.
The Amnesty report castigates both India’s state security forces and non-state armed groups for human rights abuses. “In general, victims of human rights abuses in state have been unable to secure justice, regardless of whether perpetrator is a state or non-state actor,” group says.
But the report notes that civilian deaths as a result of firing by Indian security forces, while now less frequent than in the 1990s and early 2000s, “remain disturbingly regular.” The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory (the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) is in its fifth decade and the ‘undercurrent of violence’ and inherent abuses of fundamental human rights and disregard for international law inherent in any long-standing military occupation is presented by both sides. Both Israeli and Palestinian civilians continue to bear brunt of violence in the region.
Human rights violations by Israeli forces in the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’ (OPT) have included, but are not limited to, home demolitions and the forced eviction of Palestinian families; punitive arrests, unfair trials, ill-treatment and torture of detainees and the use of excessive or lethal force to subdue nonviolent demonstrations as well as the use of restrictive legal means. In contravention of international law, Israel continues to build parts of the wall/fence in the OPT, expand settlements and use draconian restrictions on the movement of Palestinians with some 600 roadblocks and checkpoints. Amnesty International is also concerned about ‘discriminatory policies’ affecting access to water for Palestinians. In areas under control of the Palestinian Authority, concerns include, but are not limited to, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment, torture and the use of administrative detention to jail individuals without charge or trial. Some detainees also do not receive adequate medical attention. Israel maintains effective control over Gaza, controlling all but one of the crossings into the Gaza Strip, the airspace, territorial waters, telecommunications and the population registry which determines who is allowed to leave or enter Gaza. Therefore, Israel is still considered the occupying power and is responsible for the welfare of the inhabitants in the strip under international humanitarian law.
Israeli authorities rejected or delayed hundreds of permit applications to leave Gaza by Palestinians requiring specialist medical treatment; a few died as a result. Most of Gaza’s inhabitants depend on international aid, which is severely hampered by ‘blockade’.
While analysing the policies— fostered by Netayahu and Narendera Modi in Palestine and Kashmir respectively, one finds —closed ‘similarities’ regarding legal hoodwinking, political usurpation, human rights violations, and military brinkmanship. Both Israel and India are seen as ‘big transgressors’ of international law with regard to the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), International Human Rights Law (IHRL), and International Humanitarian Law. The‘exercise’ of the right of ‘self-determination’ to the people of both Palestine and Kashmir, remains the only ‘workable’ solution. Therefore the UNSC and the UN Human Rights Council must take poised and bold actions regarding the decaying human rights status in Kashmir and Palestine.
— The writer is an independent ‘IR’ researcher based in Karachi.