United Nations: UN Human Rights head Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Wednesday expressed regret that his officials were not being allowed into the Kashmir Valley or into the part being governed by Pakistan, marking a departure from the world body's hands off approach so far to recent developments there.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters here on Wednesday, "The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today (Wednesday) expressed deep regret at the failure of Indian and Pakistani authorities to grant his office access to Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir, given recent allegations of serious human rights violations."
In an attempt at even-handedness, both India and Pakistan were named in the statement. Haq said,
"Since the latest outbreak of violence in early July, the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, has been engaging with both Indian and Pakistani authorities to seek access for a team to visit both areas to look into what he called 'allegations of the use of excessive force, allegations of state sponsorship of violence, as well as the number of people killed."
Questions about UN reactions to the Kashmir development crops up frequently at briefings by Ban's spokespersons, but they have avoided wading into the issue. As recently as Tuesday, Haq referred a questioner asking about the "deteriorating situation" in Kashmir to a July statement.
That statement by Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarri said the Secretary General reiterated his call "to both sides to exercise restraint" and that he was closely following the situation in Kashmir and "regrets the loss of lives" there.
In the statement issued on Wednesday in Geneva, Zeid asked for "full and unhindered access" to victims, witnesses and security forces, and to relevant documentation? on both sides of Kashmir.
"Such access would enable us to provide an independent and fact-based analysis of the situation, which is so crucial in volatile, politically-charged situations," his statement said. "Without access, we can only fear the worst."
India considers developments in Kashmir an internal issue and disputes regarding it a bilateral issue as accepted by Pakistan in the 1972 Simla agreement.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)