UN rights chief calls for major probe into Kashmir abuses

Officers carry the coffin of slain soldiers during a wreath-laying ceremony at India’s Border Security Force headquarters in Jammu. Fresh cross border fire left four border security force personnel dead on June 13 along the border dividing disputed Kashmir with the Pakistani province of Punjab. (AFP)
Updated 14 June 2018
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UN rights chief calls for major probe into Kashmir abuses

GENEVA: The UN human rights chief on Thursday called for a major investigation into abuses in Kashmir, as his office released its first-ever report on alleged violations committed by both India and Pakistan in the disputed territory.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he would urge the Human Rights Council, which opens a new session next week, “to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.”
A COI is one of the UN’s highest-level probes, generally reserved for major crises like the conflict in Syria.
The report, which the UN said was the first-of-its-kind for Kashmir, highlights “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces,” the rights of office said in a press release.
The findings come after months of deadly clashes along the border that divides Kashmir into zones of Indian and Pakistani control.
The report said that Zeid met with representatives of both governments following an upsurge of violence in July 2016, triggered by India’s killing of 22-year-rebel commander Burhan Wani.
Concerned by what the UN termed “large and unprecedented” protests after Wani’s death, Zeid asked for “unconditional access” to Kashmir, but neither government agreed.
His office then began remote monitoring of the region, ultimately producing a report covering alleged abuses between January 2016 and April of this year.
The report, which focuses mainly on Indian-administered Kashmir, accuses Indian troops of being responsible for an estimated 145 unlawful killings, far surpassing the 20 people estimated to have been killed by militant groups during that period.
“It is essential that the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid was quoted as saying.
Turning to territory under Pakistan’s control, the report identifies “a range of human rights abuses,” but notes they “are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature.”
The rights office also said that restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly made it difficult to obtain information about conditions in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan should “end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent,” the UN said.
Kashmir has been divided since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and both New Delhi and Islamabad claim the former Himalayan kingdom in full.
India has about 500,000 soldiers in the part of Kashmir it controls, where armed groups are fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.


Zambia probes mine dump collapse that killed 10

Updated 22 min 11 sec ago
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Zambia probes mine dump collapse that killed 10

  • Zambia’s mining minister Richard Musukwa blamed the incident, which also left seven people injured, on “people who should not have been in the mine,” describing them as “illegal miners or scavengers.”
  • Ministers were forced to step in last month after small-scale miners at the site began using explosives to extract copper from the mine dump, damaging nearby properties and possibly dislodging the mound.

LUSAKA: Zambia’s mining minister Richard Musukwa announced an investigation on Thursday after 10 people died during the collapse of a mine dump in the country’s copper-producing region.
The subsistence miners were killed on Wednesday when the dump known locally as Black Mountain collapsed in Zambia’s second-largest city and mining hub Kitwe.
Musukwa told parliament “the investigations are still underway and we have suspended operations at the Black Mountain to allow for a forensic investigation.”
Musukwa blamed the incident, which also left seven people injured, on “people who should not have been in the mine,” describing them as “illegal miners or scavengers.”
Local media reported that ministers were forced to step in last month after small-scale miners at the site began using explosives to extract copper from the mine dump, damaging nearby properties and possibly dislodging the mound.
Zambia has some of the world’s largest copper reserves and the metal accounts for as much as 80 percent of the country’s export earnings.
Growing demand for copper has seen prices spike above $3.14 (€2.74) for a pound, according to the InfoMine service.
This has contributed to a surge in illegal mining activity in Zambia which is beset by high levels of unemployment.
Communications and power cables have become a valuable target, both for major gangs and small-time thieves both in Zambia and worldwide.