Guterres hopes negotiations for humanitarian access to Kashmir goes forward

By Arul Louis

United Nations, Aug 24 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes that under the current situation in Kashmir, negotiations by UN human rights officials for access to the area "can move forward", according to his Associate Spokesperson Eri Kaneko.

"We are aware that our human rights contacts are in touch at various levels with the Indian government. So we will hope that these contacts will continue to allow for access," Kaneko said at her briefing on Friday,

She was answering a reporter's question if there were efforts to "force" India to agree to the request made by UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to allow a "humanitarian team" to visit Kashmir.

"We hope that in the light of the current situation of these negotiations can move forward to allow for access," Kaneko said.

Former High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein had called for an international inquiry into the human rights situation in Kashmir and for his office's access to both sides of the Line of Control. It has been reiterated by Bachelet.

India has refused to allow the High Commissioner's staff access to Kashmir saying it was an internal matter for the country, which has an independent judiciary and mechanisms to safeguard human rights.

The Secretary-General does not have the authority to force any country to allow in staffers.

On Thursday, a group of UN human rights experts called on the Indian government "to end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests imposed" on Kashmir, according to Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The five experts "expressed concern that the measures, imposed after the Indian Parliament revoked the Constitutionally-mandated status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, would exacerbate tensions in the region", the OHCHR said.

The group included special rapporteurs David Kaye, Michel Forst and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

--IANS

al/ksk

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