My Lords, I too am grateful for being able to speak in the gap. As many noble Lords have mentioned, human rights are among the basic values of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the record on human rights of some member countries is not so good. I draw your Lordships’ attention to the human rights situation in what is known to be the largest democracy on earth, India, particularly in the part of Jammu and Kashmir under its control.
According to Amnesty International’s report of 2016-17, the most recent one, in Jammu and Kashmir since July 2016 more than 80 people, mostly protesters, were killed in clashes and thousands were injured. At least 14 people were killed and hundreds blinded by security forces’ use of pellet guns, which are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate. Security forces used arbitrary or excessive force against demonstrators on several occasions. In August, Shabir Ahmad Monga, a lecturer, was beaten to death by army soldiers.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government imposed a curfew that lasted more than two months. Private landline, mobile and internet service providers suspended their services for weeks on orders from state authorities. The communications shutdown undermined a range of human rights. Residents reported being unable to reach medical assistance in emergencies. In September, Khurram Parvez, a Kashmiri human rights defender, was arrested and detained for more than two months on spurious grounds, a day after he was prevented from travelling to a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, Switzerland. In October, the Jammu and Kashmir Government ordered a Srinagar-based newspaper to cease printing and publication on vague grounds.
Over this period hundreds of people, including children, were placed in administrative detention. Will the Minster condemn these abuses of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir? Furthermore, will she ask the British Foreign Secretary to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir with his counterpart in India at their next meeting to bring them to an end and bring the culprits to justice?