LONDON: A group of Independent international leaders, The Elders have expressed grave concern at the recent killings by security forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
They called on the government of India to allow international delegations and monitors full access to Indian-held Kashmir to properly assess the humanitarian and human rights situation in the territory.
The Elders stated the India should lift all travel, internet and phone service restrictions so independent and authoritative assessments can be made of humanitarian needs and alleged human rights abuses.
The group noted the suspension of democratic institutions and freedoms in Indian Kashmir, including a two month-long shutdown of Internet services and mobile phone networks.
The Elders expressed grave concern at credible reports of serious human rights violations including arbitrary arrests and allegations of torture and sexual assault carried out by security forces.
They reiterated their fears of the risk of renewed conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and called on both countries to act with restraint and responsibility to defuse tensions.
They stated that the countries’ leaders should urgently adopt mutual confidence-building measures aimed at easing tensions, including more robust channels of communication.
Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the situation in Kashmir is very dangerous and internet and cellular services should be restored immediately.
“The situation today in Kashmir is very dangerous. Blocking Internet access and mobile networks is tantamount to collective punishment which has a harmful impact on public health as well as freedom of expression. These services need to be restored in full without further delay.
“The Kashmiri people have suffered for decades from being pawns in power games between New Delhi and Islamabad. India and Pakistan both need to assume their responsibility to take appropriate measures to build trust, curb extremism and restore genuine peace and calm,” she said.
Founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, the Elders are an independent group of public figures, peace advocates, and human rights activists using their collective experience working together for peace, justice and human rights across the world.
The group includes former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Nobel winner and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former First Lady of Mozambique Graca Machel, first woman Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Bruntland and other international leaders.