UN Human Rights Panel Chief Wants India To Abolish AFSPA

23 March 2009
The Times of India


New Delhi: Expressing concern over reported disappearance of people in Kashmir, the United Nations on Monday proposed India to have independent investigations into it and wanted New Delhi to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). 'India can invite special rapporteurs for independent investigations,' UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay told reporters. She said India could invite international observers during elections in Kashmir. 'In the past two decades, hundreds of cases of disappearances have been reported in Kashmir. These cases must be properly investigated in order to bring a sense of closure to the families who for far too long have been awaiting for news,' she said. Pillay met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P Chidambaram here and took up the issue of laws like AFSPA. 'I told the ministers that human rights activities need to be strengthened in India. I raised the concerns of civil society about the way the AFSPA is implemented. I also raised the issue of having a UN's office of human rights here,' she said. Pillay, however, said she did not get any assurance from the ministers about repeal of AFSPA. 'I did not get any assurance about repealing the Act. The ministers said AFSPA is implemented in certain conflict areas and was necessary (in those areas),' she said. About having the UN office on human rights, the government did not make any commitment. 'Countries, committed to human right, should have institutions in place. There should be no reason why there should not be high commission's office here,' she said. 'I intend to pursue this matter after the elections. All other UN agencies are here. The country so outspoken about democracy should have no fear to have UN office on human rights here,' she said. Pillay also raised issues of human rights violation with respect to 'domestic violence, improper investigation of cases by police in India and non-implementation of certain Supreme Court rulings'. She said minorities and dalits demand protection. There will be a world conference in Geneva next month on the human rights violation of minorities. She said both India and South Africa have many archaic laws, including those that criminalise homosexuality. 'You (India) have to look at these laws. You are a vibrant democracy,' she observed. Earlier, addressing the members of NHRC and State Commissions, she said, 'India should repeal those dated and colonial-era laws that breach contemporary international human rights standards'. The horrific terrorist attack in Mumbai has also polarised society and risks stoking suspicions against the Muslim community. It is imperative to counter violent religious extremism of any kind by insisting on peaceful coexistence, tolerance and acceptance of diversity, she said. The UN high commissioner also asked the Government to implement the recommendations of the Sachar committee on the status of Muslims in the country.