Mazari urges UN to establish humanitarian corridor for Kashmiris under siege in IOK

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Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen M Mazari on Thursday wrote a letter to Mark Lowcock, UN Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator asking for establishment of an immediate humanitarian corridor to supply humanitarian aid and relief to Kashmiris under siege in IOJK by Indian Occupation forces.

In a letter, Dr Mazari drew the attention of the Mark Lowcock, UN Under- Secretary-General to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, as the siege imposed by the Indian State continues into its second month, resulting in a grave crisis.

Draft of the letter wrote to the Mr. Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator (USG/ERC), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) is;

Dear Mr. Lowcock,

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Indian-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) requires urgent attention, as the siege imposed by the Indian State continues into its second month, resulting in a grave crisis.

The crippling curfew and communications blackout have left the Kashmiri population cut off from food, medicine and other basic necessities. The situation presents a serious threat to the lives of the Kashmiri people, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women and children.

The 8 July 2019 Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), raised concerns over “excessive use of force by Indian security forces”. However, since the time that Report was released till date, there has been an escalation in the conflict in IOJK. During a recent attack on a mosque in Anchar (around Srinagar) by Indian Occupation Forces, 24-year old Aqib was hit by numerous pellets in his face, eyes, mouth and arms.

The incident left countless others wounded and unable to call an ambulance or access any emergency medical assistance due to the complete lockdown in the region. This is just one of several examples that point to the gross human rights atrocities being committed in IOJK, as well as the increasing shortages of medical supplies and food.

It is with grave concern for the right to life of the Kashmiri people, that I request your office to facilitate the establishment of a corridor for humanitarian aid and relief in the region. Under Rule 55 of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) rules of customary international humanitarian law, “the parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need”.

Without the provision of “rapid and unimpeded” humanitarian relief to the civilian population in IOJK, the senseless loss of lives will unfortunately continue.

In August 2018, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions shared her report titled “Saving lives is not a crime”, reaffirming the obligation to allow unimpeded access to humanitarian aid and services, and clarifying the implications of limitations on such access (to humanitarian assistance) for the right to life.

Paragraph 13 of the 2018 Report states: “The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life is a foundational and universally recognized right, applicable at all times and in all circumstances, including during armed conflict or other public emergency”.

Further, the Report in Paragraph 26, states: “Acts prohibiting or otherwise impeding humanitarian services violate State’s obligation to respect the right to life.

Any death that may be linked to such prohibition would constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life”.

Accordingly, under international humanitarian law (IHL), a State has two sets of obligations with respect to humanitarian services: a positive obligation to ensure and assist humanitarian services and a negative obligation not to refuse or impede provision of humanitarian aid and services to those in need (Paragraph 21, 2018 Report).

The Government of India must comply with its obligation, at the very least, by allowing humanitarian organizations access to IOJK, as well as the mobility to carry out their work. It is in light of the continuing siege and communications blackout in IOJK, and the humanitarian crisis ongoing at present, that I must emphasize the pressing need to establish a humanitarian corridor, solely for the purposes of delivering humanitarian aid and relief in IOJK.

It is urgently required that international humanitarian aid groups gain access to IOJK and that supplies and services that are required be provided to the Kashmiri people.’

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