UN chief urges India to end atrocities against Kashmiri children

NEW YORK (Dunya News) - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has expressed his concern over the “grave violations” against children in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and called upon the government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against them,

The call was made by the UN chief in the annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, which was launched last week by his Special Representative on the subject, Virginia Gamba.

“I remain concerned by grave violations against children in Jammu and Kashmir and call upon the Government to take preventive measures to protect children, including by ending the use of pellets against children, ensuring that children are not associated in any way to security forces, and endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration and the Vancouver Principles,” the secretary-general said in the report.

“I am alarmed at the detention and torture of children and concerned by the military use of schools,” he said, noting that seven schools were used for four months by Indian security forces.

“I urge the (Indian) Government to ensure that children are detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and to prevent all forms of ill-treatment in detention,” the secretary-general added.

“I also urge the (Indian) Government to ensure the implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, to address the use of children for illegal activities and the situation of detained children*.”

According to the UN report, a total of 39 children (33 boys, 6 girl) were killed and maimed (9 killed and 30 maimed by pellet guns) and several casualties in other actions, including 13 in crossfire and shelling across the line of control.

In an open UN Security Council debate on Monday on Children in Conflict, held virtually, the UN chief said that disregard for children’s rights amid war and upheaval “is shocking and heartbreaking”.

Guterres urged warring parties to prioritize the prevention of violations against boys and girls, and called on countries to support their protection at all times.

“There is no place for children in conflict, and we must not allow conflict to trample on the rights of children”, he said.

It revealed that last year, grave violations were committed against some 19,300 youngsters affected by fighting in also countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Recruitment and use in hostilities remained the top violations, followed by killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access.

In a speech submitted to the 15-member council, Pakistan’s Acting Permanent Representative, Ambassador Aamir Khan, drew the Council’s attention to the Secretary-General’s latest report expressing “grave concern” over the situation of Kashmiri children.

“We are not surprised by the findings of the Secretary-General’s report,” Ambassador Aamir Khan said

He said the secretary-general had rightly urged the Indian Government to “immediately end” such practices and take “preventive measures” to protect children, including by “ending the use of pellets against children” in IIOJK.

“Despite the persistent concerns raised by multiple Special Rapporteurs and Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council and the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict, the human rights and humanitarian situations continues to deteriorate for the innocent children of IIOJK since 05 August 2019,’ he said.

During the year 2020, he said, the international community continued to witness some of the worst atrocities and state terrorism taking place in IIOJK:

More than 300 innocent Kashmiris, including women and children, were killed in “fake encounters” and staged “cordon-and-search” operations.

750 Kashmiris were critically injured, while 2,770 innocent Kashmiris were arbitrarily detained, and 922 houses destroyed as part of collective punishment inflicted on the Kashmiri communities.

In a particularly horrifying incident, the Pakistani envoy said, a gut-wrenching picture of a three-year-old Kashmiri boy sitting on the body of his grandfather (Muhammad Bashir) killed by Indian forces went viral on the internet, drawing ire from social media and civil society. The three-year-old boy was shown sitting on top of his motionless grandfather as he cried.

“Such inhuman actions are not only in violation of the UNSC resolutions on Children and Armed Conflict but are also in breach of the ‘best interests of the child’ principle under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a state party,” he said, adding that the worsening situation in the disputed territory , calls for the Council’s intervention by holding India accountable.

Pakistan, he said, fully supports the mandate of the Special Representative, which is adequate to deal with situations of armed conflict. “We want to strengthen the political consensus around it but the mandate does not need accretion.”