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Restrictions Imposed Are Intrinsically Disproportionate: UN Human Rights Experts Urge Modi Govt To End Communications Blackout In Jammu And Kashmir

The UN also criticised the increase in the arrest of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and others.

On August 22, human rights experts from the United Nations urged the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to end the “crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The communications blackout in the now-Union Territory has been in place since before the Centre’s bid to amend the Article 370 of the Constitution and has been criticised by activists and sections of the media alike.

The experts — David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Bernard Duhaime, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions — expressed concern that these measures would exacerbate tensions in the region.

 While the government claims that slowly communication services are being restored in the Valley, they said, “The shutdown of the internet and telecommunication networks, without justification from the Government, are inconsistent with the fundamental norms of necessity and proportionality,” adding, “A blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offence.”

 The experts also called out the Centre’s imposition of curfew across Jammu and Kashmir along with the deployment of massive numbers of troops to “enforce restrictions on the freedom of movement” and of “peaceful assembly, particularly in the Kashmir Valley”.

 They said, “We remind the Indian authorities that the restrictions imposed by the Indian government are intrinsically disproportionate because they preclude considerations of the specific circumstances of each proposed assembly.” The UN also criticised the increase in the arrest of political figures, journalists, human rights defenders, protesters and others.

 “Such detentions could constitute serious human rights violations,” the experts said. “The allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, and, if confirmed, those responsible must be held accountable.”

 “India has the responsibility to use the minimum force necessary when policing protests,” the experts said. “This means that the use of deadly force is a measure permissible only as a last resort and to protect life.”

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