Asia - Pacific

Rights bodies slam clampdown in Kashmir after Geelani’s death

International Federation for Human Rights, FORUM-ASIA, World Organization Against Torture release joint statement

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 17.09.2021
Rights bodies slam clampdown in Kashmir after Geelani’s death

ANKARA

A consortium of international human rights bodies has censured India for imposing restrictions after the recent death of Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Geelani.

In a joint statement released last week, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), FORUM-ASIA, and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) condemned “serious human rights violations committed by the Indian government authorities” in Kashmir following the veteran leader's death.

The bodies are based in Paris, Bangkok, and Geneva, respectively.

Geelani, 91, who led All Parties Hurriyat Conference – a group of pro-freedom parties in Indian-administered Kashmir that seek right to self-determination – died on Sept. 1 at his home in Srinagar, where he was under house arrest for the better part of the last decade.

He was buried in a tightly controlled pre-dawn ceremony as Indian authorities imposed a lockdown.

His family alleged that police forcibly snatched Geelani's body and buried him in a local graveyard, some 200 meters away from his Hyderpora residence.

Police, however, called the allegations “baseless” and “propaganda,” saying they facilitated the burial process to avoid any untoward incident.

“The three organizations also condemn the imposition of restrictions that are inconsistent with the country’s international human rights obligations and urge the Indian government to end all acts of harassment against Geelani’s family members,” said the statement by rights bodies.

The rights bodies said the communication blockade “made it difficult for the people to access healthcare and other essential services in the region.”

“FIDH, FORUM-ASIA, and OMCT condemn the violations of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of movement, and freedom of religion or belief,” the readout said.

“The three organizations urge the Indian government to ensure the people of Kashmir can exercise their legitimate rights in accordance with the human rights treaties to which India is a state party.”

Attempt to elicit a response from the Indian Foreign Ministry did not yield a result.

Sehrai’s case taken up by UN experts

Meanwhile, four UN special rapporteurs, or experts, have taken up with India the case of the custodial death of Kashmiri leader Ashraf Sehrai, who died on May 5 when he was under police detention.

In a letter dated July 12, the experts wrote to New Delhi regarding allegations of arrest “followed by torture and death in custody of Muhammad Ashraf Khan Sehrai.”

Communications sent by the special rapporteur and state replies are confidential for a period of 60 days before being made public.

“He suffered from hypertension and chronic kidney disease and reportedly had no access to adequate medication since his arrest. Two of his sons, Mujahid Ashraf Khan and Rashed Ashraf Khan, were arrested at his home after the funeral,” said the rapporteurs in their letter, seeking a response from India.

The rapporteurs said: “We express grave concern at the re-arrest, followed by torture and death in custody of Sehrai, an elderly aged 77.”

Sehrai was a colleague of Geelani, and the two founded the Kashmir-based Tehreek-e-Hurriyat political party in 2004.

Given the “gravity” of the case, the UN experts asked India and the local authorities in Jammu and Kashmir to undertake a prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigation into Sehrai's death.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​*Ahmad Adil contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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