Kashmir Centre Brussels resumes activities on Kashmir

Kashmir Centre Brussels resumes activities on Kashmir

Geneva: Kashmir Centre Brussels has resumed its activities at international fora by conducting a seminar on Kashmir here despite the propagation by Indian media and other pro Indian circles since the arrest of Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai Executive Director of Kashmir Centre Washington who was accused by FBI for receiving foreign funds to run the lobbying on Kashmir in govt and non-govt institutions.

In this regard the International Council for Human Rights (ICHR),which is the sister organisation of Kashmir Centre Brussels, in association with the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, hosted a seminar on Tuesday entitled Human Rights and Peaceful Protest at the United Nations (Palais des Nations) in Geneva.

Speakers included Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Chairman of ICHR, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Prof. Nazir Ahmed Shawl, Chairman of the Justice Foundation Kashmir Centre London, Dr. Karen Parker, International Educational Development, Prof. Joshua Castellino, Head of Law Department – Middlesex University, Aoifa Daly, School of Law and the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex and Ronald Barnes, Chairman of the Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition.

Barrister Tramboo opened the meeting with a discussion of the legal aspects of the right to peaceful protest. He went on to say that in the summer of 2010 almost 120 young men had died at the hands of Indian military and para-military forces while exercising their right to protest with precious little action from the international community. He discussed ways in which the United Nations, civil society, NGOs and states could work together at the Human Rights Council in order to pursue justice for the families of the victims. He went on to note that the recent discovery of over 2000 bodies in mass graves in three regions of Kashmir was jus the tip of the iceberg and that we, unfortunately, should prepare to hear of more discoveries. Noting the European Parliament Urgency Resolution on Mass Graves in Kashmir from August 2008 (which called for an investigation into the almost 1000 bodies that were found at that time) he said that no action had been taken.

Mirwaiz Umer Farooq highlighted that all protests happen within a context. In Indian Held Kashmir it happens with the backdrop of Indian Occupation. The youth are compelled to protest as they have been left no other recourse; he recalled the times when protests were not peaceful and noted with apprehension that unless a suitable solution is found then the youth may resort to non-peaceful means once more.

In the context of the denial of the right to self-determination and with the backdrop of Indian aggression and mass human rights abuses the people of Kashmir are forced to come out onto the streets. There can be no substitute for allowing the people of Kashmir to choose their own destiny.

Mirwaiz noted that he himself had been detained under house arrest some 57 times since 2008 in order to prevent him leading peaceful marches in defiance of the Indian Government; this happened to all political leaders and was a naive attempt to silence the voices of descent in Kashmir. Many more were detained under house arrest when the Indian Government saw fit to do so.

He raised the case of Shaikh Abdul Aziz who was killed whilst leading a protest march in 2008 that was calling for freedom of movement in Indian Held Kashmir.

Prof. Nazir Shawl focussed on reform of the police in Indian Held Kashmir. He said that while the police were allowed to arrest people for no crime, torture, and kill, there would be no justice in Kashmir. As a fundamental starting point the police should stop being given carte blanche to commit human rights violations without being brought to account. He cited a number of recent examples in which the police had violated human rights leading to the loss of life and increased tension in Indian Held Kashmir.

He noted that standard practice for the police when civilians protest is to open fire with live rounds and this is why so many deaths have occurred and that these actions amounted to a denial of the right to self-determination.

Prof. Joshua Castellino discussed the processes that are involved in ensuring that states meet their human rights obligations. He said that unfortunately the UN had become a club of nations and that the situations deemed to be worthy of action were decided upon by politics and not morality.

He discussed the emerging “Arab Spring” and declared public protest the “zeitgeist of our times”. Nations are realising that the voice of the people cannot be ignored or suppressed when they are out on the streets.

He also noted a speech speech by Woodrow Wilson made in 1918 in which he declared “states deny self-determination at their peril”. He noted the recent revolutions in the arab spring stemmed from the desire of the people to choose their own political leadership, those who have ignored this desire are now on trial or in hiding.

Prof. Castellino also discussed the narrow definition of security that is applied by states that fail to allow public protest. He said that we need to be aware that by failing to listen to members of our society we leave the door open for more extreme views and this should be avoided if national security is to be upheld.

Dr. Karen Parker discussed a number of examples from the US where the right to protest had been denied and peaceful protestors had been arrested. She said that the only time the UN deems it permissible to deny (a very limited number of) human rights is during times of war, and more strictly times of invasion. In no other circumstances is it admissible and states should be held ore accountable for failing to meet their obligations.

Dr. Parker also raised the issue of mass graves in Kashmir and called upon the gathered NGOs to support the report by the OHCHR calling for forensic investigations into mass graves sites to be an obligation of states.

Aoifa Daly discussed the role of children during protests and the nature of changing case law over the decades. Authorities respond disproportionately to children throwing stones and often respond with live ammunition and tear gas. She said it was not just wrong to act so disproportionately but also unwise as these children will one day have a larger stake in the political decisions of their nation.

Ronald Barnes discussed numerous incidents of indigenous peoples staging public protests. He noted, however, that despite sustained and inventive means of protest indigenous communities are still in decline as states continue to deny them human rights and erode their individual cultures and status.

The meeting was closed with a vote of thanks.

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