UN High Commissioner for Human Rights flags crises in Assam and Kashmir

On September 9, 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet spoke about the citizenship issue in Assam as well as the situation in Kashmir as a part of her opening address at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council. The inclusion of these two subjects was significant as the speech covered some of the most acute instances of humanitarian crises across the world.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

Speaking on the subject of Assam, Bachelet said, “The recent National Register of Citizens verification process in the northeast Indian state of Assam has caused great uncertainty and anxiety, with some 1.9 million people excluded from the final list published on 31 August.” She added, “I appeal to the Government to ensure due process during the appeals process, prevent deportation or detention, and ensure people are protected from statelessness.”

On the subject of Kashmir, the High Commissioner had more to say. “In relation to Kashmir, my Office continues to receive reports on the human rights situation on both sides of the line of control. I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists,” said Bachelet. She also said, “While I continue to urge the Governments of India and Pakistan to ensure that human rights are respected and protected, I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews; to ensure people’s access to basic services; and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained.” But what was most significant was the emphasis she laid on the need for the participation of Kashmiri people in any decision making process that concerns their lives. She said, “It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future.”

The High Commissioner’s address also included a mention of the protests in Hong Kong, “My Office continues to engage in bilateral dialogue with the Government of China. In relation to Hong Kong, while many of the demonstrations have been conducted peacefully and according to the law, I have been disturbed by scenes of increasing violence associated with some recent protests. I appeal to those engaging in demonstrations to do so peacefully, and in accordance with the law. I also urge the authorities to continue to respond to any acts of violence with restraint, and without excessive force. “

Bechelet also touched upon the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the armed conflicts in Afghanistand Syria as well as the crisis at the US border and its impact on migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and other Central American countries. The address devoted a sizable amount of time to climate change and the rights of indigenous people as well. The entire address may be read here.


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