UN rights office calls for international probe in Kashmir

The U.N. human rights chief called 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 its first report on the region, the office of Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. 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 U.N.-backed Human Rights Council that begins a new session on Monday to create a “Commission of Inquiry” to investigate alleged abuses in the region.

The 49-page report adds to criticism about India’s tactics in Kashmir, saying its security forces 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.

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

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.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim. They 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 rule.

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Sharma reported from New Delhi.

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