HR defenders facing harassment, attacks in IIOJK: Shamim Shawl

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   ISLAMABAD: Kashmiri representative, Shamim Shawl has deplored that human rights defenders continue to face harassment, intimidation, attacks and reprisals for their work for the promotion and protection of human rights in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

        According to Kashmir Media Service, Shamim Shawl said, freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.

    She said the right to freedom of expression has been recognized as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law by the United Nations.

       She said, “Despite a clear right to access and communicate with the international human rights bodies, human rights defenders continue to face harassment, intimidation, attacks and reprisals for their work for the promotion and protection of human rights.

      Human rights defenders are not allowed to monitor and voice for the victims of Indian state terrorism in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.”

         She pointed out that Indian troops, under the protection of black laws, are targeting the Kashmiris and mainly the women human rights defenders.

           Over the last 24 years along with the killing of over one hundred thousand innocent men and women, a good number of human rights defenders were also killed, detained, harassed and intimidated in IIOJK, she added.

   As per a report by Human Rights Watch, the Indian government has arrested at least 35 journalists in Kashmir since 20191, she said.

       The Indian government has been cracking down on independent media and civil society groups in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and the situation has only worsened since the special status of the territory was revoked by the Modi government in August 2019, she added.

                Shamim Shawl said one of the most recent cases is that of Fahad Shah, editor-in-chief of a leading Srinagar-based news site, The Kashmir Walla.

          She said he was arrested on February 04, 2022, on charges of sedition after his site reported on a fake encounter in Pulwama in January 2022 in which Indian forces killed four people. Fahad Shah’s arrest is part of the Indian government’s attempt to silence those who highlight the human rights violations by Indian troops in the occupied territory, she maintained.

       Another journalist, Irfan Mehraj, was arrested under terrorism charges in March 2023.

      It is important to note that these arrests are politically motivated and violate freedom of speech and expression.    The Indian government should bring to book the forces’ personnel involved in human rights violations in occupied Kashmir instead of silencing those who report on them.

                All those human rights defenders who got the opportunity to meet the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings during visits to Srinagar were harassed by the occupation authorities.

                Shamim Shawl said if this Council is serious about ending intimidation and reprisals, it should answer the UN Secretary General’s call for a coherent, coordinated and systematic institutional response. “It is time for the Council and member states to take concrete steps to protect human rights defenders from all forms of attacks.

                It is also high time for the Council and member states to live up to the Council membership requirements to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and fully cooperate with the General Assembly resolution on the matter,” she added.

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