My Lords, I support this SI and draw your Lordships’ attention to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office report of July 2020, Human Rights and Democracy. It mentions countries about which there are concerns over human rights abuses, such as Bahrain, the Maldives, Sudan, Egypt and many more. For them to be on this list, I am sure that there are genuine causes of concern regarding human rights. However, I was surprised to note that the FCO failed to include India in the list, due to its record of human rights violations in Kashmir.
In Kashmir, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives in only the last few decades. Kashmir has become an open prison, with tens of thousands of people, including prominent political leaders such as Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Asiya Andrabi, Masarat Alam and Ashraf Sehrai, illegally detained for many years. According to many renowned international human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Human Rights Council, Indian security forces are involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and the inhuman and degrading treatment of civilians, with rape being used as a weapon of war. Many rape victims, including the Kunan Poshpora gang-rape victims, are still waiting for justice.
In its reports of 2018 and 2019, the UN asked for free access to Kashmir to investigate these reports of human rights abuses. In the latest report, of June 2020, the UN chief urged the Indian Government to end torture and the arbitrary arrest of minors, expressing concern that 68 children in the region have been detained by Indian security forces. The report also verified the killing of eight children and the maiming of seven by or during joint operations of the Indian security forces. Earlier in March, the UN had also called for a global ceasefire in view of the current pandemic crisis, but Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a high number of casualties due to violence rather than because of the pandemic.
I am sure that the British Government are aware of those reports—hence, I have two questions for the Minister. First, comparing the situation in Kashmir with those in some of the countries highlighted in the recent FCO report, why does India not qualify to be on this list? Secondly, what can the Government do to support the UN to get access to Kashmir to investigate these reports of human rights abuses?