Letter: Human rights infringements draw contradictory responses

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The Independent Online
Sir: While the international community discusses the issue of human rights in Vienna under the auspices of the United Nations this week, some of the world's best-known 'democracies' are engaged in curtailing the very same rights of individuals, communities and nations, using the military might made available to them by our 'champions of human rights'.

Systematic massacres, extrajudicial killings, false imprisonment, gang rapes and torture in prisons and interrogation camps are a few of the many forms of excesses committed by government agencies all round the world.

Jammu-Kashmir is one such unfortunate and forgotten place, where India's 500,000 armed forces and paramilitary troops are reported to have been engaged in the worst type of human rights abuses recorded in Indian history. With numerous UN resolutions on their side, the people of Kashmir still await the day when the world community will pay due attention to their plight. The continuous denial of self-determination, the most fundamental of all human rights, to the people of Kashmir has led to bloodshed, repression and human rights violations by the world's biggest democracy.

In November 1978 the UN Rapporteur inclued Jammu-Kashmir in the list of 'specific situations concerning the right of the people under colonial and alien domination to self-determination' which have not been settled.

If the Vienna conference is not just another exercise to link self-interests to the issue of human rights, then the UN must form a binding chapter, an additional covenant, to link international aid for countries to their human rights records. The calls to establish a UN commission to look into and assess claims for self-determination, particularly where there is a high risk of human rights abuses and violence, ought to be given serious consideration.

If lessons are to be learnt from the bloody saga of the Yugoslavian break-up and the military conflict in Somalia, then the mechanism to develop an early warning system to prevent conflicts of this kind ought to be given top priority. To begin, the UN could use diplomacy to avert a major new conflict in Kashmir. If peace is the objective, then peace- building measures should include preventive intervention. Violations of basic rights should no longer be treated as an internal affair for any country.

Yours faithfully,

AZMAT A. KHAN

Bradford, West Yorkshire

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